WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although traveling the globe was a hallmark of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, who when elected was not expected to do too much traveling, logged a lot of miles during his own pontificate.
The pope, who announced his resignation Feb. 11, made 24 trips to six continents outside Italy in his eight years as pope. Pope John Paul made 104 trips over a 27-year span.
Pastoral visits to Catholics worldwide, a key aspect of the pope’s role as shepherd of the church, were taxing. According to the pope’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the pope’s doctors had advised him to discontinue transatlantic trips.
“His age is weighing on him,” Msgr. Ratzinger told The Associated Press Feb. 11. “At this age, my brother wants more rest.” Pope Benedict will turn 86 in April.
In announcing his resignation, the pope said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”
In October 2011, Pope Benedict began riding a mobile platform in liturgical processions. At the time, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said it was “solely to lighten the burden” of processions, although he acknowledged the pope had been experiencing the kind of joint pain normal for a man his age.
A few months later, the pope began occasionally using a cane.
Father Lombardi told reporters Feb. 12 that the pope had a pacemaker put in several years before he became pope and went to a private health clinic in Rome about three months ago for a routine procedure to have the pacemaker’s batteries changed.
The pope’s last trip outside Italy was to Lebanon last September, visiting the region during a time of heightened tension with a civil war under way in neighboring Syria and violent protests taking place in several Muslim countries. Last year, he also visited Mexico and Cuba. In Mexico, he addressed a crowd of more than 600,000 at an outdoor Mass.
This year, his only scheduled trip was to Brazil in July for World Youth Day. During his pontificate, he presided over three World Youth Day gatherings, in Germany in 2005, in Australia in 2008, and in Spain in 2011.
In 2011, he also visited Croatia, Germany and Benin. The previous year he visited Malta, Portugal, Cyprus, England, Scotland and Spain. In 2009, he visited Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories as well as Cameroon and Angola.
In 2008, the pope traveled to the United States, visiting Catholics in Washington and New York City. He presided at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, and also visited France, where he spoke in Paris and Lourdes.
In 2007, Pope Benedict traveled to Brazil and Austria. The previous year he visited Poland, Spain, Germany and Turkey.
During the first year of his pontificate, he visited his home country of Germany for World Youth Day in Cologne.
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— By Carol Zimmermann Catholic News Service. Contributing to this report was Cindy Wooden in Rome.