Pope Francis said his predecessor, Pope Benedict, the 95-year-old pope who resigned nine years ago, was “very ill” after his health deteriorated on Wednesday.
“I would like to ask everyone to pray especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who has supported the Church in silence. He is very ill,” Francis said Wednesday to a general audience at the Vatican.
“We ask the Lord to comfort and support him and to bear witness to his love for the Church until the end.”
A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that “the situation has worsened in the last few hours due to (Benedict XVI’s) age.”
“The situation remains under control and is under constant monitoring by his doctors,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said, adding that Francis was at the Mater Ecclesiae convent in Vatican City after the general audience ended. Visited his predecessor.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by making an almost unprecedented decision to resign on the grounds of “advanced age”.
Benedict’s announcement marks the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years. The last pope to resign before his death was Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 to end a civil war within the Catholic Church in which more than one individual claimed the title of pope.
In 2020, after German media reported that Benedict was ill, the Vatican said that Benedict’s condition was “painful, but not serious.”
In a rare open letter published two years ago in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Benedict wrote: “In the slow decline of my physical strength, my heart is making a pilgrimage to home.”
Benedict’s legacy has been clouded by recent scrutiny of his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising between 1977 and 1982 after a church-commissioned report into abuses by Catholic clergy was published in January .
The report found that he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors – two of which occurred while he was in Munich – but had not acted on it, and that he had attended a conference about an abusive priest .
Benedict later refuted the allegations, acknowledging that he attended the meeting but denying that he deliberately concealed his presence.