VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis’ abrupt decision to cancel his popular morning Mass and general audiences for the month of July has provoked fresh speculation about the health of the 77-year-old pontiff.

For the month of July, Pope Francis has canceled his morning Mass, which he celebrates daily in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

For the month of July, Pope Francis has canceled his morning Mass, which he celebrates daily in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. Creative commons image by Johannes Müller

The Vatican has announced the pope will give no midweek general audiences in St Peter’s Square during July, and the intimate Mass he celebrates every day inside the chapel at the St. Martha residence will be suspended from July until September.

“There is no sickness whatsoever,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office, said, according to CNN. “If there was, we would be open about that and asking people to pray for him.”

Francis will continue to lead the Angelus blessing at the Vatican every Sunday except when he travels to South Korea from August 13-18.

The pope has worked intensely since he was elected in March 2013 and has also made two demanding official visits, to Brazil last year and the Middle East last month. On Saturday (June 21), he is planning to go to Cassano All’Jonio, a mafia stronghold in the southern region of Calabria to pray for 3-year-old Nicola “Coco” Campolongo who was burned to death as he sat in a baby seat when his grandfather was shot dead in front of him.

Last week, the Vatican sought to play down concern when Francis canceled two days of official engagements and his morning Mass because of a “minor illness.”

“There is nothing to worry about,” the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said at the time. “His life has been very intense in the past few weeks. It is totally normal for the pope to rest.”

Vatican officials have privately expressed concern at the pope’s heavy workload particularly since he only has one lung. Italian media reports have also suggested he has suffered from back pain recently.

While it is customary for popes to take a vacation during the summer months and leave Rome for the papal palace at Castel Gandolfo, Francis has not yet announced any plans for a holiday this year. Last summer, Francis worked at the Vatican without a vacation.

KRE/AMB END McKENNA

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Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years’ experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. She produced nature and political TV segments for Discovery, National Geographic and ABC before moving to Rome in 2007. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

11 Comments

  1. DOES THE POPE LIE?
    VATICAN: “There is nothing to worry about,”

    IT IS WRONG TO LIE:
    Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. – (Proverbs 12:22)

    LYING IS THE RIGHT AND HOLY WORK OF THE LORD:
    God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (I Thessalonians 2:11)

    Glad the Bible is clear on right and wrong.

      • @Globetrekker,

        Why do I care what the Pope does?

        Because the Catholic Church is a criminal enterprise and it needs to be shut down and the Vatican should be turned into a museum.

      • If you have no Religion, that is OK for you. However, you should respect people who do and those Roman Catholics who are concerned with the health of the Holy Father.

        Remember sir, eternity is a LONG time.

  2. You never know for sure. He could be sicker than they are saying or everything they are saying is the truth.

    How ironical that Pope BenedictXVI abdicated the throne of Saint Peter due to health and advanced age and it is possible that this Pope could be sick. Pope Benedict looks very good since he abdicated the throne.

    Life is ironical but we are all in the hands of our Blessed Lord.

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