LONDON (AP) - When he became pope at age 78, Benedict XVI was already the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years. He's now 85, and in recent years he has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences.
The pope travels to the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform to spare him the 100-yard (-meter) walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane. Late last year, people who were spending time with the pontiff emerged saying they found him weak and too tired to engage with what they were saying.
The Vatican stressed on Monday that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. Still, Benedict said his advanced age means he no longer has the necessary mental and physical strength to lead the world's more than one billion Roman Catholics.
That Benedict is tired would be a perfectly normal diagnosis for an 85-year-old pope, even someone with no known serious health problems and a still-agile mind.
He has acknowledged having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 1991 that temporarily affected his vision, but he later made a full recovery. In 2009, the pope fell and suffered minor injuries when he broke one of his wrists while vacationing in the Alps.
A doctor familiar with the pope's medical team told The Associated Press on Monday that the pontiff has no grave or life-threatening illnesses. But, the doctor said, the pope - like many men his age - has suffered some prostate problems. Beyond that, the pope is simply old and tired, the doctor said on condition of anonymity.
According to the pope's brother Georg Ratzinger, the pontiff was told by his doctor not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips. In fact, the pontiff's only foreign trip this year was scheduled to be a July visit to Brazil for the church's World Youth Day.