Pope Benedict stands on a wheeled platform as he arrives for a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 16. This was the pope's first use of the platform.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

Pope Benedict stands on a wheeled platform as he arrives for a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Oct. 16. This was the pope's first use of the platform.

October 31, 2011

Pope Benedict has begun using a wheeled platform to move through crowds at major events, a change the Vatican said was designed to reduce the physical toll on the 84-year-old pontiff.

The pope entered St. Peter's Basilica on the mobile podium Oct. 16, holding onto the bar of the device with one hand as ushers rolled it slowly down the main aisle.

The change did not signal any concern about Pope Benedict's health, but was made "solely to lighten the burden" of processions, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.

During the Mass that followed, the pope moved around the altar as he normally does and navigated steps without a problem.

The platform was used by Pope John Paul II during his last years, when declining mobility made it impossible for him to walk in processions.