Aging pope uses wheeled platform in St. Peter's Basilica

Pope Benedict XVI began using a wheeled platform Sunday to navigate the long aisle of St. Peter's Basilica, adopting the device employed by his ailing predecessor to reduce fatigue.

As the platform, pushed forward by aides, glided up the marble floor toward the main altar, Benedict gripped his pastoral staff with one hand and the device's support bar with the other.

The 84-year-old pontiff occasionally took his hand off the bar to wave to thousands of faithful flanking his route in the basilica, where he celebrated a Mass dedicated to encouraging missionary zeal. Benedict walked steadily around the central altar and up and down its steps, but appeared less sprightly Sunday than he usually does.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the platform wasn't being used for any "medical reason."

Thailand

Flood barriers keep water from Bangkok

Barriers protecting Bangkok from Thailand's worst floods in half a century held firm Sunday as the government said some water drenching provinces just north of the capital has begun receding.

That fueled hopes that Bangkok, a city of 9 million, could escape unharmed. But outside the capital, thousands of people remain displaced and hungry residents are struggling to survive in half-submerged towns. On Sunday, the military rescued terrified civilians from the rooftops of flooded buildings in the swamped city of Ayutthaya, one of the country's hardest-hit.

FRANCE

Socialist chosen to face Sarkozy in 2012

More than six months before the French presidential election, the main candidates appear to be set, with Francois Hollande, 57, winning a runoff election on Sunday to become the Socialist Party candidate. With about 2.2 million of 2.7 million votes counted, Hollande, a lawyer and career politician, was beating the party leader, Martine Aubry, by roughly 56 percent to 44 percent in their second-round runoff.

President Nicolas Sarkozy trails Hollande in the opinion polls, but there are months to go before the first round of the presidential election on April 22.

Elsewhere

SPANISH FORK, Utah: Two 15-year-old girls died and a 13-year-old girl was critically injured after they were struck by a freight train Saturday.

Philadelphia: Three people were charged after the discovery of four malnourished mentally disabled adults chained to a boiler in a basement room.

Times wires

Aging pope uses wheeled platform in St. Peter's Basilica 10/17/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 17, 2011 12:18am]

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