Fears for the health of Pope Francis have surfaced after he cancelled two days of engagements.
Following an intense working weekend, the 77-year-old decided not to celebrate Mass in his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, this morning and cancelled his appointments for the rest of the day.
He had already asked advisers to clear his schedule yesterday so that he could rest, after hosting an historic and diplomatically sensitive prayer meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday evening.
Three weeks ago he called off a visit to a Marian shrine near Rome to “lighten his schedule” before his three-day trip to the Holy land.
He has previously cancelled engagements because of a cold, or a light fever.
A Vatican spokesman, Fr Thomas Rosica, said: “Following a very historic and full weekend, the Holy Father has chosen to rest on Monday afternoon and today Tuesday," adding that his condition was "not serious".
Fr Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See’s press office, said the two-day absence was "nothing to worry about."
The Pope, who rises at 4.30am every day, has been a whirlwind of activity since his election more than a year ago, but his advisers are hoping that he will take some time off this summer.
One close aide, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, said: “We have been asking him to have holidays this year.”
“Because last year he didn’t and sometimes he’s very tired.”
“So I think that during August he’s going to retire to rest.”
Traditionally popes move to the papal summer palace at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome during the summer months but last year Francis worked through the summer.
Papal aides reportedly say that Francis thrives off a fast pace and “eats work,” and finds it hard to relinquish control to others.
But he has some underlying health problems, including sciatica and a back problem, and had part of one of his lungs removed in his youth due to an infection.
Above: Pope Francis at ecumenical celebration in Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem during the trip to the Holy Land where he made the invitation to presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring