Pope Francis yesterday asked the faithful to pray for the retired Pope Benedict XVI and said he was “very ill.” In their prayers, Francis said, people should ask God to console Benedict and “support him in this witness of love to the church, until the end.”
A Vatican spokesman said that Francis later visited Benedict, 95, at the monastery on Vatican City grounds where the former pope has lived since announcing his resignation in February 2013. Benedict was the first pope in six centuries to step down.
Increasingly frail, he has rarely made public appearances in recent years.
When he resigned nearly 10 years ago, Benedict cited his declining health, both “of mind and body.” He said that “due to an advanced age” he felt that his strengths were “no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the church and that he had decided to resign freely “for the good of the church.” Since then, he has mostly stepped back from public life.
“I’d like to ask all of you for a special prayer for emeritus Pope Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the church,” Francis said at the end of an hourlong audience.
Benedict’s life: Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born in 1927 and was ordained a priest in 1951. He became pope after the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and took the name of a fifth-century monk, Benedict of Norcia, who had founded monasteries that spread Christianity in Europe.