Former Pope Benedict is “very ill”, Pope Francis said

Former Pope Benedict is “very ill”, Pope Francis said

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Pope Francis said his predecessor Pope Benedict, the 95-year-old former pontiff who resigned nine years ago, was “very ill” after his health deteriorated on Wednesday.

“I want to ask you for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who supports the Church in his silence. He is very ill,” Francis said during his general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.

“We ask the Lord to comfort and support him in this testimony of love for the Church until the very end.”

A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that “in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to (Benedict’s) advancing age.”

“The situation currently remains under control and is continuously monitored by his doctors,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said, adding that Francis had visited his predecessor at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery after his general audience.

In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by making the almost unprecedented decision to step down from his post, citing “advanced age.”

Benedict’s announcement marked the first resignation of a pope in nearly 600 years. The last pope to resign before his death was Gregory XII, who in 1415 resigned to end a civil war in the Catholic Church in which more than one man was claiming to be pope.

In 2020, the Vatican said Benedict had suffered in a “painful but not serious condition”, following reports in the German media that he was ill.

Two years earlier, in a rare public letter published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Benedict wrote that “in the slow weakening of my physical strength, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage home.”

Benedict’s legacy has been marred by a recent investigation into his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982, after a Church-commissioned report into abuses by Catholic clergy there was published in January.

The report found that he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse of minors – including two during his time in Munich – but failed to act, and that he had attended a meeting about an abusive priest.

Benedict later denied these claims, admitting that he had attended the meeting, but denies that he willfully concealed his presence.

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