VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has announced that his predecessor, Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI is “very ill.”
The 95-year-old Benedict, who stepped down nearly 10 years ago, has been believed to be in poor health, but his successor’s call for prayers for him confirmed the gravity of his illness.
“I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who— in silence is sustaining the Church. Remember him, for he is very ill,” the pope said during his Wednesday General Audience. “Ask the Lord to comfort him and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end.”
Responding to press inquires for further details on the condition of the pope emeritus, the Holy See Press Office issued a statement through spokesman Matteo Bruni.
“Regarding the health condition of the Pope Emeritus, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of this morning’s general audience, I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been an aggravation due to advancing age,” Bruni said. “The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly followed by doctors.”
Bruni said Pope Francis had left directly after the Wednesday Audience to visit Benedict XVI at his residence nearby in the Vatican Gardens, known as Mater Ecclesiae Monastery.
In 2013, Benedict XVI resigned the papacy, saying declining health would not permit him the ability to continue the active ministry. Although having no precedence in the nearly 2000 years of Church history, Benedict took the title “Emeritus,” not unlike those of retired bishops.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis, who is 86, was asked if he also intended to resign due to health reasons. The pope stated he had already signed a resignation document, and provided it to the Secretary of State. He had, in past interviews, indicated that he would follow his predecessor and take the title “Emeritus”, but asked this month if the position of “Emeritus pope” would be a permanent institution, the pope replied, “No. I’ve not touched that at all, nor has the idea crossed my mind. It seems the Holy Spirit has no interest in me taking care of such things.”
Rumors are already flying around the curia as to the state of the Pope Emeritus’ health. The Daily Wire has inquired with Archbishop George Ganswein, longtime secretary and caretaker of Benedict XVI, and will continue to follow facts as they develop.