According to the The Huffington Post
, some Vatican watchers say that after the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and with the church in need of a relatively young, healthy and vigorous pontiff, the choice of a 76-year-old with only one lung may be questioned.
reports that Vatican watchers say Bergoglio "has slowed a bit with age" and may be suffering the effects of having a lung removed due to infection when he was a teenager.
The Huffington Post
, however, reports that an expert Dr. Sandhya Khurana, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and a pulmonologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center said that having only one lung should not necessarily hinder health. The medical expert who has no first-hand knowledge of the Pope Francis I's medical history, said: "If you have normal lungs, then that's certainly possible to just live with one lung and we get proof of that on a regular basis because of people who have lost a lung through surgery, for an infection, or cancer... they have normal breathing and normal lung function, they seem to do OK."
Medical experts say that the most important factor in assessing the respiratory health of any patient with only one lung is the condition of that lung. Experts say that a single healthy lung compensates for the missing one. Dr. Richard Shemin, M.D., professor and chief of Cardiothoracic surgery at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said that in such cases "the good lung becomes larger and obviously can provide all the oxygenation for circulation."
Shemin pointed out that in Pope Francis' case, where a lung was removed when he was a teenager, the single lung has had time to develop and adapt to providing for his needs. He said that all other things being equal "my expectation would be that his lung is not necessarily going to be a life-limiting event."
Khurana said that although she has no knowledge of the infection for which the new pope had his lungs removed, it was common decades ago when antibiotics were not widely available for people to have their lungs removed for infections such as tuberculosis. The infected lung would be surgically collapsed and rendered non-functional because it was known that a single healthy lung could manage to meet the body's needs on its own.
However, the doctor said if the patient's surviving lung becomes diseased or the patient adopts unhealthy living habits such as smoking, the surviving lung may be unable to fulfill its functions.
Profile: Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio
reported that Cardinal Bergoglio got the second highest votes after Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 election and is considered by many very well suited for the position given his background.
He comes from Latin America which has the largest population of Catholics in the world. He is known to be self-effacing and modest. He is widely respected for his austere lifestyle which contrasts with the splendor of the Vatican. He shunned luxurious official mansions in Buenos Aires, living in a simple downtown apartment with a single bed, heated by a small stove in which he cooks his own meals. For years he depended on the city's rickety public transportation.
According to official biographer Sergio Rubin: "It's a very curious thing: When bishops meet, he always wants to sit in the back rows. This sense of humility is very well seen in Rome."
His ministry has focused on social outreach. He caused a stir last year when he berated fellow church leaders, accusing them of hypocrisy and failing to live up to the ministry of Christ. He compared the church leadership to the Pharisees of Jesus' time, saying:
In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage. These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!... Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony, go out and interact with your brothers, go out and share, go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit.
However, his critics are sure to focus on allegations that he failed to publicly oppose the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina with an iron fist from 1976-1983. In spite of the church's first-hand knowledge of cases of torture, murder and kidnappings, Bergoglio reportedly failed to take a stand as leader of the Jesuit Order in Argentina, a failure for which he has been accused of cowardice.
reports that some opponents allege that he co-operated actively with the US-backed military dictatorship of Argentina in the "Dirty War"
and helped to cover up the regime's atrocities.
These are grave allegations that will haunt his papacy.