Action Alert!

Slow news day? Then worry about the Pope's health

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 18, 2014

Recent days have seen a new flurry of speculation about the health of Pope Francis. Last week he cancelled a few audiences and postponed others as he rested to recover from a "mild indisposition" after a tiring week of public events. Early this week he postponed another audience, later confessing that he had been running a slight fever.

Is the Pope's health slipping? That question has been asked in a dozen or more recent media reports. But none of these stories has contained any important new information. It's always possible to ask the question, and to worry over the health concerns the Pope might be facing. During a slow news week, when Vatican-watchers don't have more pressing stories to follow, there's always room for one more column about the Pope's medical conditions, real or imagined.

Could there be more to it than that? Might there be some real reason for concern? Certainly. Pope Francis is not a young man, his health has never been particularly robust, and he works hard-- too hard, in the view of some close aides. Vatican officials have been urging the Pope to take some vacation time. Last year he skipped the usual break, and worked straight through the summer. 

Pope Francis still hasn't agreed to take a vacation. But he has agreed to cut back his schedule during the summer months, eliminating some public appearances. His aides are gratified; the Pope is taking a few prudent steps to preserve his own health. Good. 

But what's the net result, in terms of publicity? A spate of stories suggesting that the Pope is easing his schedule because his health is slipping! 

Do you see how it works? If he keeps up his regular pace, Vatican-watchers say he's damaging his health. If he relaxes a bit, they conclude his health is already damaged. He can't win.

It's never a bad idea to pray for the Pope's health, and we're always alert to any signs that give cause for concern. But for now, at least, there's no story here.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Defender - Jun. 18, 2014 12:13 PM ET USA

    The pace the pope keeps, especially given his age, is remarkable.