VATICAN CITY – For the first time, Pope Benedict XVI is using a wheeled platform to move up the long aisle of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The 84-year-old pontiff used the same device employed by his ailing predecessor, John Paul II, to reach the main altar, where he was celebrating Mass Sunday.
Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi insists that Benedict is using the platform not for any medical reason but simply to “ease his effort” and “lighten his fatigue.” Lombardi also told reporters Saturday that the device would serve to better protect the pope. On Christmas Eve in 2009, a woman with psychological problems scrambled over the barrier at the end of the pews and caused Benedict to fall down in her rush to embrace him.