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Pope gets lift at altar from electric seat

The Pope is now using a special throne at public events that can be raised at the push of a button to enable him to celebrate mass as though he was standing up.

To the untrained eye, the small chair with carved wooden arms, which was made by Vatican technicians, is in-keeping with other ceremonial furniture.

However, behind panels it has hidden wheels and a mechanism that can lift the Pope to a level that allows him to speak from an altar.

Although the Pope, who is 82 and suffers from Parkinson's disease, has been looking fitter and more alert of late - possibly due to a change in medication - his mobility remains greatly hampered by arthritis.

Several years ago an electric platform was brought in to transport him up the long aisles of St Peter's.

Last year he was forced to sit and watch Easter celebrations, due to his inability to stand at the altar.

Daily Telegraph correspondent Bruce Johnston speculates that the new throne would suggest that the Pope is determined to defy suggestions that he break with Church tradition and retire.

Daily Telegraph (London)

8 Apr 2003