Retired Pope Benedict XVI ‘very ill’; Pope Francis, Vatican seek prayers


ROME — Pope Francis said his predecessor Benedict XVI was “very ill,” and the Vatican said the 95-year-old’s health had “deteriorated,” putting the Catholic Church’s attention on one of its most prominent conservative figures. one.

“I ask you all to pray especially for Pope Emeritus Benedict,” Francis told pilgrims in his general audience Wednesday, asking God to comfort and support Benedict “until the very end.”

The Vatican said in a statement that the situation “is currently under control and doctors are following up”.

The comments appear to mark a worrying turning point for Benedict, who for years has been physically frail but mentally sharp and has now been a former pope for longer than he has been pope.

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A close friend of Benedict’s, who spoke candidly on a delicate subject on condition of anonymity, said the retired pope had been weakening since before Christmas but had no comment in recent hours information about his health.

“Of course time was not on his side,” the friend said. “There’s definitely some concern.”

After Francis’ general audience, he visited Benedict at his monastery inside the ancient walls of the Vatican.The Vatican’s statement said, “We join [Francis] Pray for the Emeritus Pope. “

Among the photos of Benedict released by the Vatican — including the one on Aug. 8. At 27, after the ceremony for the appointment of a new cardinal – he looked haggard and hunched. But friends say he remains sane.

Benedict’s longtime aide, Archbishop George Ganswain, did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2013, Benedict became the first pope to step down in six centuries. Given that he cited “degraded” strength as a factor in his abdication, he is in for a long final chapter in retirement. In 2018, he told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera that he was “on a pilgrimage home”.

He had promised a reclusive life in retirement – reading, writing, walking in stately gardens. But his life behind closed doors ended up being rather complicated — and complicated for the church.

He chose to wear papal white in his retirement and chose not to use his first name, Joseph Ratzinger. He has been championed as a symbol by a small group of outspoken traditionalists who say Francis is leading the church astray. Although Benedict was often silent on controversial issues, he stepped in several times, including once contradicting Francis’ views on the nature of clergy abuse and later objecting to the floating exception for priestly celibacy.

At the same time, he made it clear that there is only one supreme authority figure in the church. “There’s only one Pope, and he’s Francis,” Benedict said in an interview.

Francis and Benedict have maintained a friendly relationship in public, and the current pope often cites his predecessor and cites him with admiration. But their differences in style and politics have fostered years of curiosity about their relationship while also inspiring a Netflix film.

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At one point – the resignation issue – Francis described Benedict as a trendsetter with a sharp eye. He has said Benedict’s decision “should not be considered exceptional” and that Benedict “opens the door” for other popes to follow suit. Many church watchers speculate that if Benedict was still alive, Francis would be reluctant to step down, even in ill health, given the headaches that would ensue in a church with two former popes. But Benedict’s death may eventually make Francis, 86, consider resigning.

Benedict became one of the church’s leading theologians by sticking to orthodoxy, leading the movement—first as a cardinal and then as pope—to resist change brought about by outside forces. His point is that if the church tries to go with the flow as it pleases, its teachings will be weakened.

His tenure as pope has coincided with one of its most important crises — an escalation in a wave of clergy abuse cases. While Benedict has gone further than his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, by decommissioning hundreds of priests, he has been slow to grasp the systemic nature of the problem.

More recently, his reputation has been tarnished by a German investigation commissioned by the church that accused Benedict of “improper conduct” in several cases he handled while running the Archdiocese of Munich.

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