UK & World News
Pope Was Left Bloodied By Fall, Says Vatican
Fresh questions over the health of Pope Benedict XVI have emerged after the Vatican confirmed reports he fell over and hit his head while on a tour of Mexico last year.
Pope Benedict stunned the world earlier this week with his announcement that he would step down as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics at the end of this month.
The 85-year-old said he was tired and could no longer carry on, and although the Vatican was quick to insist there were no health issues, rumours have been swirling of more serious underlying concerns.
La Stampa newspaper claimed that the Pope decided to step down after his fall last March, while on a gruelling transatlantic trip to Mexico and Cuba and which had left him with a blood soaked head.
Details were hushed up until now and only emerged after an unidentified cleric spoke to La Stampa.
The details of the incident in the city of Leon have now been confirmed by the Pope's spokesman Federico Lombardi.
La Stampa reported how Pope Benedict had been staying in a Capucin monastery when aides noticed he had "blood soaked hair". When asked about it he revealed he had fallen during the night as he went to the bathroom and hit his head on a sink.
The incident was similar to one in July 2009 when he slipped during the night while of his way to the bathroom during a break in the Italian Alps and he fractured his wrist.
La Stampa quoted the clergyman as saying: "Even the cushion was bloodstained and there were drops on the rug.
"Everything disappeared very quickly and the rug was cleaned of blood. It wasn't a deep or worrying cut.
"The area in question was covered up by his skull cap and the Pope's hair also hid it away. There was no plaster - unlike when Pope John Paul II fell during a trip to Poland in June 1999."
Following the incident, Pope Benedict's personal doctor Patrizio Polisca is said to have told him: "You see Holy Father why I am opposed to these trips?"
The Pope reportedly replied: "Even I'm critical of them."
On Thursday Father Lombardi said at his daily media briefing: "I'm not going to deny what happened but I will underline that the incident had no impact on the trip or on the Pope's decision."
Besides the fall, the Pope is said to have been particularly affected by the Vatileaks scandal of last year after bitter infighting and rivalries emerged in documents leaked to the Italian media by the Pontiff's personal butler.
In one of his final public events Pope Benedict met hundreds of priests from parishes across Rome in an event held at St Peter's Basilica.
He told them: "Even if I am about to retire I will always be near you in prayer and you will be near to me even if I am hidden from the world."
Rome's council said that it would be asking for help from central government ahead of the Pope's final public events at the end of the month and the conclave in March with an estimated extra 150,000 people expected to flock to the city.
Mayor Gianni Alemanno said he would be asking for 4.5m euros from Prime Minister Mario Monti to help cover expected costs, including the setting up of giant screens as well as extra refuse collection and civil protection teams.