Vatican says health of retired pope Benedict XVI ‘worsening’

Vatican says health of retired pope Benedict XVI ‘worsening’


VATICAN CITY – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s health has deteriorated due to his age and doctors are constantly monitoring the frail 95-year-old’s condition, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Pope Francis, who asked the faithful on Wednesday to pray for Benedict, went to visit his predecessor at the monastery on Vatican grounds where the retired pope has lived since retiring in February 2013.

“Regarding the health of the pope emeritus, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of his general audience this morning, I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to advanced age,” Bruni said. . a written statement.

“The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly monitored by doctors”, the statement says.

At the end of his usual Wednesday audience with the public in a Vatican auditorium, Francis broke away from his prepared remarks to say Benedict was “very ill” and asked the faithful to pray for the retired pope.

Francis did not provide details on Benedict’s condition.

“I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is holding the church,” Francis said in remarks near the end of an hour-long audience. “I remind you that he is very ill,” said Francis.

“Let’s ask God to comfort him and support him in this testimony of love for the church until the end,” Francis said.

After the hour-long audience, “Pope Francis went to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to visit Benedict XVI. Let us all join him in prayer for the Pope emeritus,” said Bruni.

Benedict, who was the first pope to resign in 600 years, has grown increasingly frail in recent years as he devotes his post-pontificate to prayer and meditation.

When Benedict turned 95 in April, his longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, said the retired pope was in good spirits, adding that “of course he is physically relatively weak and frail, but quite sober”.

In one of his previously publicized visits, Francis had called Benedict to the monastery four months earlier. That occasion was the last ceremony of Francis raising churchmen to the rank of cardinal, and the “princes of the church” accompanied him to the monastery for the brief greeting.

The Vatican released a photo at the time showing a very thin-looking Benedict shaking Francis’ hand as the current and former popes smiled at each other.

In his early years of retirement, Benedict attended several cardinal installation ceremonies at St. Peter’s Basilica. But in recent years, he was not strong enough to pursue long service.

He was elevated to the rank of cardinal in 1977 by then Pope Paul VI. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German prelate and theologian served for a long time as the Vatican’s Orthodox doctrinal overseer. He was elected pontiff in 2005.

Benedict shocked a room full of Vatican prelates by announcing in Latin in February 2013 that he would step down as pope in two weeks. Some church traditionalists were shocked by his decision.

Francis hailed Benedict’s decision as a courageous admission that his physical weakness no longer left him able to fully serve the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.

Given his health history, including a knee ligament problem that has forced him to use a wheelchair or a cane, Francis has said retirement is something he would consider if the situation called for it.

In an interview earlier this month with Spanish newspaper ABC, Francis revealed that shortly after fellow cardinals chose him to succeed Benedict in the papacy, he wrote a letter of resignation to have on hand in case medical problems prevented him from carrying out his duties his.

But in the same interview, Francis rejected his mobility challenge, saying that one governs with the head, not the knee.

In Benedict’s native Germany, the head of that nation’s bishops’ conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, joined Francis’ call for prayer.

“My thoughts are with the pope emeritus,” Baetzing told the German news agency dpa. “I call on the faithful in Germany to pray for Benedict XVI”.

In Berlin, Chancellor Olaf Scholz “wishes the German Pope, as we say, a good recovery and his thoughts are with him,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann said during a regular government press conference.

Geir Moulson contributed from Berlin.

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