Says The Holy Father Was Beginning To Show Signs Of Physical Decline

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A meeting with the pope is rare, but CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez has met with the pontiff twice.

“In the past year and a half, I actually had the opportunity to spend a few brief moments with Benedict XVI on two separate occasions,” Gomez said. “As unexpected as that was, how that came about is even more surprising.”

Dr. Max’s first meeting with the pope was a year ago November, right after the pontiff met with a small audience of scientists and theologians in an ornate hall right outside his private apartments.

Dr. Max said when he met him, he was warm, with a “serene air about him” and “very soft-spoken,” while beginning to show signs of the physical decline that led, ultimately, to his resignation.

The impetus for the meeting was the Vatican’s sponsorship of an international stem cell conference, not embryonic but cells harvested from adults — a new and surprising direction for the church.

It was held in the same hall the pope confers with the College of Cardinals.

Dr. Max had the honor of moderating the three-day conference.

Out of that conference grew a book Dr. Max co-authored on adult stem cell therapies, called “The Healing Cell.” Pope Benedict actually wrote an introductory message for the book, which was presented to him this past June.

Again, he was warm and soft-spoken, although he seemed perhaps a little thinner and more frail, Dr. Max reported. But he reiterated his support for adult stem cell research and the book that will explain it to the public.

After Dr. Max’s last meeting with the pope, he and his co-authors were given each a rosary that the pontiff blessed.

That day he was able to address the gathered faithful in four languages, but his attendants were being very protective, conserving Benedict’s energy.

He was weakened but still giving off an aura of serene holiness that comes from being the Holy Father to more than a billion Catholics worldwide.

Dr. Max said he and his co-authors were set to meet with him a third time this April after the next Vatican stem cell conference and expressed hope the new pope would also welcome them.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…

Watch & Listen LIVE