An Italian journalist revealed last week that Pope Benedict XVI's legs have been diagnosed as having arthrosis -- a degenerative disease caused by erosion of cartilage in joints over time.
The onset of arthrosis means Pope Benedict, 84, can move only short distances, because it becomes extremely painful to continue walking.
Last month, the news that the Pope was towed into St. Peter's Basilica on a rolling platform shocked many people. The Vatican press office only said the platform was used "to alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father."
The Vatican press office needs to be more sincere and honest in describing the Pope's physical condition. "To alleviate the efforts of the Holy Father" is indeed an insincere half-truth description -- even a dishonest one -- of the Pope's arthrosis problem.
Is the Vatican press office afraid that revealing the real reason for the Pope's difficulty in walking will stigmatize the Pope? It should know better than that.
In a similar situation, the Vatican press office refused to confirm that Pope John Paul II -- who died in 2005 at the age of 84 -- had Parkinson's disease for at least a year after he first had it. Many people realized that Pope John Paul had Parkinson's disease -- just by seeing him on television -- for many months before the Vatican press office confirmed it.
The Vatican press office, then, needs to establish a new modus operandi in disseminating news regarding the Pope's health. It must be honest, sincere, and thorough.
Deteriorating health of a person -- especially an elderly person -- should not be considered a stigma that must be kept secret. Rather, it should be viewed as a natural phenomenon of life that occurs in most people when they are octogenarians -- if not earlier -- as a part of the aging process.
The Vatican press office needs to realize this, and become more honest, sincere, and thorough when it describes the health of a Pope.