POPE Benedict used a cane last Friday -- apparently for the first time in public -- at an airport ceremony to see him off on a pilgrimage to Mexico and Cuba.
The frail pontiff, who turns 85 next month, walked with a black cane for about 100 yards to an Alitalia plane from the helicopter, which flew him from the Vatican to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.
Italian premier Mario Monti and church officials greeted him at the ceremony.
Benedict climbed the steps of the aircraft unaided to begin the 13.5-hour flight to Mexico. He returns to Rome on March 29.
A few months ago, Benedict started using a wheeled platform to save his energy when navigating the vast length of St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.