Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ‘very sick’, says Pope Francis

Liberal incumbent pope asks God to comfort and support retired conservative pope until ‘the end’

Pope Francis has said his retired predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, is “very sick” and asked for God to comfort him until “the end”.

The pontiff did not reveal the nature of the illness affecting Benedict, but towards the end of his audience on Wednesday said: “I would like to ask for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who in silence is supporting the church. I remind you that he is very sick. Let’s ask the Lord to comfort him and support him in this testimony of love for the church until the end.”

Benedict, 95, resigned as pontiff in 2013 and has since lived within the walls of the Vatican. He chose to be called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI after the abdication, instead of reverting to Joseph Ratzinger.

The unusual relationship between the liberal incumbent pope and the conservative ex-pope, who still wears the white cassock, inspired the film The Two Popes. Commentators have said that while Benedict’s body has become frailer, his mind has remained sharp.

Benedict has come forward on a variety of issues over the past decade, writing in 2019 that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and “homosexual cliques” among priests were to blame for the church’s paedophile-priest scandals. The opinion came two months after an unprecedented Vatican summit on tackling clerical sexual abuse, and sharply contrasted with that of Francis, who blamed the scandals on a clerical culture that elevates priests above the laity.

Benedict also wrote a letter complimenting Cardinal Joachim Meisner – a fierce critic of Francis who spoke out against the pontiff allowing remarried divorcees to receive holy communion – who died in 2017.

The results of a German investigation published in January said Benedict had failed to act against four priests accused of child sexual abuse when he was archbishop of Munich. Benedict was the first pope to retire in 600 years.

Pope Francis, who uses a wheelchair due to knee pain, has often alluded to his own resignation. He revealed in December that he had written a resignation letter shortly after being elected in case health issues prevented him from carrying out his duties.

He told the Spanish newspaper ABC: “I signed it and said: ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. Here you have it.’”

Francis, who had bowel surgery in 2021, was forced to cancel a trip to Africa in July because of the knee pain.


Angela Giuffrida in Rome

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pope Francis welcomes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI back to the Vatican

Emeritus pope and Pope Francis begin unprecedented period of co-habitation in tiny city state

John Hooper in Rome

02, May, 2013 @6:40 PM

Article image
Former Pope Benedict warns against relaxing priestly celibacy rules
Move could jeopardise potential plan by Pope Francis to change rules in Amazon

Angela Giuffrida in Rome

13, Jan, 2020 @2:35 PM

Article image
Benedict XVI: thousands expected to pay respects to former pope
Benedict’s body displayed in chapel of the Vatican monastery and will lie in state at St Peter’s Basilica

Harriet Sherwood

01, Jan, 2023 @2:55 PM

Article image
Ex-pope Benedict says God told him to resign during 'mystical experience'
Pope Francis's predecessor breaks silence to contradict explanation he gave to cardinals when he stepped down

Tom Kington in Rome

21, Aug, 2013 @12:45 PM

Article image
Pope Francis meets predecessor Benedict XVI

In first meeting of two popes in more than 600 years, men share papal kneeler to pray together in chapel at Castel Gandolfo

Staff and agencies

23, Mar, 2013 @2:35 PM

Article image
Pope Francis: reforming, pragmatic, popular – but doctrinally conservative

His gesture politics go down well among Catholics but as pontiff jets off to tour South America can he really change the Vatican?

Lizzy Davies in Vatican City

19, Jul, 2013 @5:39 PM

Article image
Pope Francis completes contentious canonisation of Otranto martyrs
Pontiff avoids word Islam and nature of deaths as he makes saints of 800 killed by Ottoman Turks in 1480 for not converting

Lizzy Davies in Rome

12, May, 2013 @4:58 PM

Article image
Death of former pope Benedict eases way for retirement of Francis
Benedict’s successor has long hinted that he might also retire but prospect of three popes – one serving and two emeritus – had been challenging

Harriet Sherwood

31, Dec, 2022 @10:31 AM

Article image
Vatican watchers on alert as Pope embarks on busy four days
Pope Francis to begin intense series of meetings and ceremonies that has brought all cardinals to Rome

Paddy Agnew in Rome

26, Aug, 2022 @4:00 AM

Article image
Pope Francis calls for better links between Islam and Christianity
'It is not possible to establish true links with God while forgetting other people,' says Francis before meeting with predecessor

Lizzy Davies in Rome

22, Mar, 2013 @1:55 PM