JP Pritchard

Pope Benedict XVI Had Pacemaker Surgery Three Months Ago

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TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) — The Vatican on Tuesday denied rumors that Pope Benedict XVI has bone cancer and that recent surgery to replace the battery in his pacemaker contributed to his decision to resign from office.

Benedict underwent the heart procedure three months ago, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said on Tuesday, adding that he believes the pacemaker was fitted on Benedict before he was elected pope nearly eight years ago, while he was a cardinal.

“[It was] not a serious operation, just normal routine.  [The surgery] had nothing to do with his decision,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi also said Benedict will keep all his appointments until Feb. 28, the date he announced that he will step down as pontiff.  His last weekly general audience will be held on Feb 27.

Lombardi said Benedict will depart at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, “because that is the [time] he normally finishes his work day.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke also discussed the heart operation during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday.

“The pope’s health right now is what you see, of an 85-year-old, who is almost 86, and who is starting to slow,” he said.  “He does have that heart condition.  That was not the reason for the resignation.  People have pacemaker batteries replaced all the time.  His mind is clear.  It’s more in mobility, and slowing down a bit.”

Burke also denied rumors that Benedict has bone cancer, saying that it is “certainly not true.”

The pope will live in the convent inside the Vatican for cloistered nuns who no longer live there, Lombardi said, adding that the building is small.

The convent is being redecorated and rebuilt to make it more suitable for a residence, Lombardi said.

Benedict’s surprise decision to carry out the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years was a year in the making, and was only known beforehand by two top Vatican cardinals.  The pope’s older brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, a church official in Germany, held a news conference on Tuesday to say that the decision was well thought out, and that no one “pushed” his brother out.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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