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Vatican admits Pope had secret heart operation three months ago

The Vatican said the operation had nothing to do with the Pope’s decision to resign.

Image: Andrew Medichini/AP

POPE BENEDICT XVI had a secret operation three months ago to replace the batteries in his pacemaker but this did not influence his decision to resign, the Vatican has said today. This was the first time that the Vatican acknowledged that the Pope had a pacemaker and that it had been in place for years.

“It was a routine operation. He already had a pacemaker. This had nothing to do with the decision of the Holy Father,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said at a press briefing.

While the pope’s heart troubles were widely known, the fact he had an operation so recently was only reported by Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore today.

The report fuelled speculation that the pope was resigning because of illness, even though he himself said he was resigning because his advancing age prevented him from carrying out his duties.

The newspaper report cited people close to the pope saying the operation had encouraged him to “question himself with simplicity and decisiveness over his capacity to guide the Ship of Saint Peter.”

The 85-year-old pope has suffered a number of health-related incidents in recent years, although the Vatican has emphasised that he is not suffering from any major illness except for old age.

In 2009, the elderly pope broke his wrist while on holiday in the Alps when he slipped in the bath.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he suffered a stroke which weakened his heart and briefly affected his eyesight and in a separate incident suffered a head wound for which he required stitches.

He also has arthritis in his hip, knees, and ankles, which affects his walking.

- © AFP 2013.

-Additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Related: Eight years: A timeline of Pope Benedict’s key moments>

More: Pope Benedict resigns, cites ‘advanced age’ and deteriorating health>

Read: Incredulity, shock and humility – The world reacts to Pope Benedict’s resignation>

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