Pope’s eyesight is not failing, Vatican confirms firmly

Pope's eyesight

The Pope’s eyesight is not failing, the Vatican says. Observers had noted Francis set aside several prepared speeches at World Youth Day (WYD) in Portugal.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni says there’s no cause to think the Pope’s eyesight is failing. Francis prefers to speak without notes, Brunei adds. It’s a pastoral preference.

“The pope always addresses the people he meets firstly as a shepherd, and speaks accordingly” Bruni says.

“The problem with his sight yesterday [Friday] morning was due to the lighting which produced a reflection on his glasses”.

Prepared speeches set aside

Questions about the pope’s eyesight were floated last Friday. During a visit to a charitable centre in Lisbon, Francis read only the first few paragraphs of his prepared speech.

He then set it aside, saying the lighting made it difficult for him to read. The prepared text would be published, he promised the small crowd.

He also mostly ignored two other prepared texts during the major international event.

One of those was for a Way of the Cross ceremony. Observers noted he appeared to look down at the prepared text from time to time but did not read from it.

The other text is described as “a highly-anticipated message” for a gathering in Fatima on Saturday morning.

Expectations were reportedly high ahead of the pope’s visit to the Marian shrine. May observers anticipated Francis delivering a message of peace amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

However, after praying the rosary with sick young people and prisoners, Francis again delivered the first few lines of his prepared speech but then deviated.

He went on to offer the crowd a brief, off-the-cuff reflection on the Virgin Mary.

Francis also set aside his prepared prayer at the end of the rosary. He asked attendees to join him in praying the Hail Mary instead.

Burni says although the pope did not make a public appeal for peace at the Fatima shrine, he “prayed with pain for peace” in the world. He made this prayer during a moment of silence during the rosary, the fourth decade of which was dedicated to peace.

Pope’s general health

Besides confirming Francis’s eyesight is not failing, Bruni says he is well. He was no more tired than anyone else in his delegation given his busy WYD schedule.

Concern over the pope’s health has increased following two hospital stays this year. One of those was for a serious bout of bronchitis and the other for surgery to repair an abdominal hernia. He also had surgery to repair cataracts last year.

Chronic sciatica and knee pain have often confined him to a wheelchair during the past year.

Reports say Francis seemed resilient and alert during his “fairly gruelling” WYD itinerary in Portugal and his voice was strong during his public addresses.

Francis returned to Rome on Sunday at the end of the 1-6 August WYD event.


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