Rebecca Tyrrel: Anyone tempted to ride in the Holy Heli should be aware of the Pope’s medical history

 

Share
Related Topics

Who knew that the Pope has a private pilot's licence, and that he likes to fly the papal helicopter to his summer palace in Castel Gandolfo, 15 miles south-east of Rome?

The make of vehicle is not recorded, but we do know it is not an Apache as used by Prince Harry for firing on Afghans. Nor is there any record of precisely when Benedict XVI earnt his wings. Considering the lack of aeronautical opportunities in the Holy See (although archangels, cherubs and other supernatural fliers are always welcome), it must have been when he was plain Joseph Ratzinger back in Germany, at some point in the long interregnum between leaving the Hitler Youth and becoming a leading adviser to predecessor John Paul II and doctrinal enforcer in the Vatican.

Perhaps this is less surprising than it at first sight appears. For a Vicar of Christ widely regarded as a severe traditionalist, Benedict shows quite a taste for modernity. As he so presciently observed on receiving an iPod nano from Vatican Radio on the occasion of the station's 75th birthday, "computer technology is the future".

He also approved the Benedictaphone, a gadget that allows you to record messages and play them back in a sombre, Pope voice. And he seems to enjoy a bit of flash. He is the first Pope in decades to revive the proto-Louboutin-style papal shoes, which have bright red leather on the soles as well as the top – an odd choice for a man who likes to call himself "a simple, humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord", but a dashing sight no doubt on the feet of a chopper pilot.

Regardless of the footwear involved, anyone tempted to accept the offer of a ride in the Holy Heli should be aware of this 85-year-old's medical history. He suffered a haemorrhagic stroke that compromised his vision in 1991, and another small stroke soon after the white smoke rose to announce his election in 2005. A year after that, a French Cardinal revealed that the Pope has a heart condition for which he takes drugs, and what the Vatican later insisted was a "routine heart examination" was rumoured by one Italian paper to be a procedure in preparation for a multiple bypass.

Ultimately, I suppose, the decision as to whether to cadge a ride to Castel Gandolfo would come down, like so much else in the Holy Father's world, to a question of faith.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Key Account Manager, Medical

£35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

Medical Affairs Executive

competitive: Real Staffing: Medical Affairs Executive (contract) - EMEA Berk...

Medical Customer Interface Manager

competitive: Real Staffing: My client requires an experienced Medical Informat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: fathers, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice