Rumors over Pope Francis’ health are beginning to swirl after the Vatican released a dramatically curtailed list of summer appearances — a radical departure from the full event schedule the pontiff typically holds.
The amended event announcement, which was posted Monday on the Vatican’s official news portal, noted that all Wednesday general audiences will be suspended until August.
Morning mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae, Francis’ residence, has also been canceled for the summer and is scheduled to begin again in September.
Despite these changes, the Angelus devotional prayer is scheduled to continue every Sunday during the summer, aside from select dates on which Francis, who is 77 and only has one fully functional lung, is scheduled to travel.
According to the Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau, the fact that people already had tickets to the July audiences made it seem as though the scheduling changes were spontaneous.
“Several Vatican insiders also have noted that the pope is gaining weight and breathing harder than usual, which has caused some of his close associates to warn him to slow down,” Nadeau wrote.
Speculation about the pope’s health ramped up last week after the pontiff canceled his Monday and Tuesday engagements, but officials dismissed concerns.
“There is nothing to worry about,” chief Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said last week, according to Religion News Service. “His life has been very intense in the past few weeks. It is totally normal for the pope to rest.”
The latest announcement only adds to the many questions that are surfacing about his health.
While the Vatican has downplayed concerns, some say Francis has appeared exhausted as of late. Observers wonder whether the schedule cancellations are rooted in an attempt to shield something bigger.
“There is no sickness whatsoever. If there was, we would be open about that and asking people to pray for him,” Vatican press office consultant Rev. Thomas Rosica insisted.
(H/T: Daily Beast)