Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pope Lunaticus

“Pope Pius XII suffered from a number of imaginary illnesses. Among other idiosyncrasies, he had a complex about houseflies, which he bad-mouthed as carriers of diseases. Whenever he sought to swat a fly in his office or bedroom, he chased after it with a flyswatter that he carried at all times on a belt underneath his robe.”

“Among his imaginary illnesses were a chronic toothache of mysterious origin, irregular pulse, and a suspected heart condition, bilious attacks or some other liver disorder, and anemia.”

“Pope Pius XII cleaned his teeth many times during the day in a long and complicated ritual—first brushing with toothpaste made especially for him by a chemist, then washing out his mouth with a strong astringent, and finally massaging his gums with sterilized cotton swabs that he dipped in a disinfecting solution.”

“Convinced his gums were bad and listening to none of the advice from competent Vatican doctors, Pius found a Roman dentist who prescribed a “remedy” for the pope’s “bad gums,” which unfortunately was chromic acid—a strong preparation also used to tan hides. Not only did this cause his gums to become more and more sensitive but also it gradually, over the years, worked on him like a slow poison, causing stomach disorders, spasms of the diaphragm and his well-known attacks of hiccups,” N. Bello, The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities (Liguori 1998), 55

“Believing that wine was not only good for digestion but also important for one’s health as a medicine, Pope Pius XII drank at least one glass of wine every day he was in office: on trips he carried a personal flask under his papal robes,” ibid. 26.

“Pope Pius XX did not like the idea of stepping on any kind of insect. And so, during the walks he took in the papal gardens on almost every afternoon of his pontificate, the gardeners—unknown to the pope—kept his path clear by praying insecticide ahead of time,” ibid. 27.

“A penny-wise but pound-foolish administrator, Pius XII diligently watched every dime the Vatican spent. To save on the electric current, for instance, he often made the rounds of the papal apartments flicking off the lights,” ibid. 50.

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