La Stampa has some interesting details about what happened when Benedict XVI took his last trans-Atlantic trip to Mexico. It helps explain the resignation:
“At the start of this highly important international trip, the Pope confided he was facing it with a “penitential spirit.” On 25 March, the Pope’s last day in León – the prelate explained – we were in the house of the Capuchin Sisters and Benedict XVI’s head was bleeding as he got up. His collaborators asked him what had happened. The Pope said he had not fallen but had banged into the basis about an hour before the meeting. He had got up to go to the bathroom and as usually happens when one gets up in the middle of the night in a house that is not one’s own, he didn’t find the light switch immediately so he moved about in the dark.”
The Pope had a similar but nastier accident in Inrod, in Italy’s Val d’Aosta region on the night of 16 July 2009. He fell from his bed, fracturing his wrist…
The Mexico incident, which was seen as irrelevant at the time, has been interpreted quite differently by the prelate who was part of the papal entourage, in light of the public revelation made by the director of L’Osservatore Romano. “That day, after dinner – he said – I was told about the jokes exchanged between the Pope and his personal doctor. As he treated the Pope’s head wound, Dr. Patrizio Polisca had remarked: “You see Holy Father why I am so critical of these trips?” With that dash of irony which is so familiar to those who know Benedict XVI well, the Pope replied: “I am also critical…”
The idea that he might have had to stay in Mexico in a hospital and be unable to return to Rome apparently rattled him. My concern is that John Paul II’s constant traveling – unprecedented at the time – could come to be the norm. And it’s brutal on those over 70.