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Pope Francis explains his health and medical history in new book


When he was 21 years old, Pope Francis underwent a serious lung operation that seemed to have no repercussions.

Now his main health concern is sciatica.

But between these the pope has had his share of common health problems, as he tells journalist Nelson Castro. He even talks about his struggles with anxiety during the dictatorship.

NELSON CASTRO
Author, “La salud de los papas”

“He defines himself as a man who learned to manage his neurosis. And he explains it very well in the chapter titled, 'We must subdue neurosis using mate tea.' In other words, he doesn't run away from them, he doesn't deny them. He faces them. It takes an extremely sincere attitude to say and do it. Acknowledging it is a truly impressive fact.”

In “La salud de los papas” (the health of the popes) Nelson Castro shares an interview with the pope from 2019. Pope Francis reveals that during the dictatorship in Argentina, he needed a psychiatrist's help to overcome his fear. During that period, he suffered a tremendous amount of tension. He hid refugees and helped them get through security checkpoints to flee clandestinely.

NELSON CASTRO
Author, “La salud de los papas”

“I have two confessions to make. I never thought the interview would happen, and when it did happen, I thought it was going to be a difficult interview, with few answers. That's why I prepared myself very well for a 20-minute interview that ended up being an hour and 15 minutes long. It ended when they knocked on the door and told the pope that the archbishop of Milan and 250 other people had been waiting for him for 30 minutes.”

Pope Francis also revealed his plans for the future. He expects he will die in Rome, either as an active pope or as a pope emeritus. That's why he will not return to Argentina even if he resigns.

NELSON CASTRO
Author, “La salud de los papas”

“It was quite a jarring response because we talked about death, a serious topic to address. And I must say it was a question I had. And I tried to determine whether or not the appropriate circumstances would present themselves. He answered with absolute naturalness, saying, 'I don't fear death.' And that's where the interview ended. He said, 'I will die in Rome, as a pope emeritus, and I will not return to Argentina.'”

The book doesn't just discuss Pope Francis' health but also that of other popes, from Benedict XVI to Leo XIII.

NELSON CASTRO
Author, “La salud de los papas”

“They're all fascinating. There's also a legend that Pius XI was poisoned. We recorded it. Pius XII's medical history is something else. Pius XII is a vademecum of illnesses that we record with such clarity that it seems like fiction. But it's real.”

Nevertheless, Nelson Castro says the book isn't simply a list of illnesses the latest popes faced. It's more of a reflection, a window that shows how the health of these important church figures changed over time. Castro conducted a similar analysis with politicians, and Pope Francis himself suggested he do the same with the popes.

Javier Romero
TR: CT