The pontiff has "a very full schedule for a person more than 80 years old," the spokesman added.On the other hand, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told Agence France Presse that he was “astonished” to encounter speculation about the Pontiff’s health:
The mass generally lasts about 90 minutes, and the Pope has to be back in St Peter's Square on Christmas morning to deliver the "Urbi et Orbi," his annual message to the city and the world. [...]
Benedict suffered a mild stroke in 1991, is thought to have had another one just before he was elected Pope, and broke his wrist in a fall while on holiday in the Italian Alps in July.
Vatican sources, who will only speak off the record, say Benedict is "tired," and meets with only a small number of close advisers.
His personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, is said by Vatican insiders to be assuming more and closer control over Benedict's schedule.
Father Lombardi responded that the Vatican has deliberately avoided placing undue demands on the stamina of the 82-year-old Pontiff, and the earlier Mass would allow him to have a full night’s rest before Christmas Day. “It is a sensible precaution,” said the Vatican spokesman, and “no cause for concern or alarm.”