Pope Francis Cancels July Appointments, Raises Question If Vatican Is Hiding Declining Health

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | June 18, 2014 4:39 PM EST

From a hardworking and physically resilient stature since accepting the post in March 2013, Pope Francis has decided to take a breather from his demanding job to cancel all his audiences and daily masses in the month of July.

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
Pope Francis coughs as he arrives to attend a conference of the Rome diocese at the Paul VI hall in Vatican June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION)

The Vatican's official news service on Monday announced the 77-year-old Argentinean spiritual leader of the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic church has suspended his popular Wednesday audiences in July, including his daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta where he lives. The latter will be suspended till August.

While Pope Francis is very much entitled to a day off from his grueling schedule, observers, supporters and cynics alike, there is more than meets the eye regarding the spiritual leader's sudden desire to rest.

"Close observers are noting that the Pope's physical body may be failing to keep up with his youthful energy and vigor, especially considering he only has one fully functioning lung," longtime Vatican correspondent Edward Pentin said.

Just last week, Pope Francis surprised the world when he took his first-ever two-day leave from work.

Read: Pope Francis Takes Day Off, Nothing Major Says Vatican, Just Tired, Advisers Keen on Doomsday Conspiracy Mill

"Some in the Holy See are beginning to openly discuss concerns about Francis' condition and asking if the Holy Father is overtaxing himself."

In May, Newsmaxhealth expert Dr. Peter Hibberd noted the pope's increasing difficulty breathing and weight gain of at least 20 pounds since taking office. Since the pope no longer has ample time to exercise, coupled with a rigorous workload, Hibberd said Pope Francis could be slipping in a form of chronic heart failure which is common among victims of significant lung disorders.

"His immunity will be challenged when under stress, and more frequent pauses to recover from otherwise small insults-such as colds, sore throats, and minor injuries-can be expected to increase in the future unless he paces himself."

Cardinal Telesphonre Placidus Toppo of India, a papal confidante, told Italy's Libero newspaper that he found the pope in one of their meetings "very tired and fatigued."

"I honestly do not know how long he might be able to sustain this pace that he's certainly not accustomed to," Toppo said.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi / )
Pope Francis coughs as he arrives to attend a conference of the Rome diocese at the Paul VI hall in Vatican June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN - Tags: RELIGION)
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