Pope Francis said his predecessor, Pope Benedict, the 95-year-old former pope who resigned from the post nine years ago, is “very ill” after his health deteriorated on Wednesday.
“I want to ask you all a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who supports the Church in his silence. He is very ill,” Francis said during his public audience in the Vatican on Wednesday.
“We ask the Lord to comfort and support him in this testimony of love for the Church to the end.”
A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that “in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to the advancing age of (Benedict)”.
“For the moment the situation remains under control and is constantly being monitored by his doctors,” said spokesman Matteo Bruni, adding that Francis visited his predecessor in the Abbey Mater Basilica in Vatican City after his public audience.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C., asked Catholics and “people of good will to pray for Benedict XVI,” in a tweet on Wednesday.
“He has served our Church in many roles—priest, scholar, diocesan bishop, care officer, and pontiff. May Christ reward him for his loving service,” Gregory said of Benedict.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by making the almost unprecedented decision to resign from office, citing “advancing age.”
Benedict’s announcement marked the first time a pope had stepped 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 man claimed to be pope.
In 2020, the Vatican said Benedict suffered From a “painful but not serious condition”, following reports in the German media that he was ill.
Two years ago, V.I Rare public speech Published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Benedict wrote that “in the slow waning of my physical strength, I am inwardly on a pilgrimage homeward”.
Benedict’s legacy has been clouded by recent scrutiny of his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, between 1977 and 1982, after the publication in January of a church-commissioned report on mistreatment by Catholic clergy there.
The report found that he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse of minors – including two during his time in Munich – but had failed to act, and that he had attended a meeting about an abusive priest.
Later, Benedict dismissed the allegations, admitting that he had attended the meeting however denied that it was intentionally concealed his existence.
In a statement shared with CNN, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) spoke of the “mixed feelings” the public may have towards Benedict. “Unfortunately, many victims of clerical abuse are not out of the woods in terms of healing their wounds and getting the justice they deserve,” SNAP wrote.
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