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Update: Pope Francis repeats call for prayers for ‘very sick’ Pope emeritus Benedict

The day after informing the world of the serious condition of his predecessor, Pope Francis again asks all to pray for the ailing Pope emeritus Benedict, who a Vatican spokesman has said is lucid and alert

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Ratzinger prize winner Joseph H. H. Weiler, left, a professor of law at New York University School of Law, talks with retired Pope Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesia monastery at the Vatican on 1 December 2022. Looking on are Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, president of the foundation, and the pope’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. The visit also included Ratzinger prize winner Jesuit Father Michel Fédou, professor of dogmatic theology and patristics at the Centre Sèvres of Paris. Photo: CNS, courtesy Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation

Catholics around the world have continued to respond with prayers and concern for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI after Pope Francis said the retired pope was “very sick” and asked people to offer special prayers for him.

The following day, the Vatican said he had had a restful night and described him as being in serious, but stable condition.

“I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for emeritus Pope Benedict,” Pope Francis had said at the end of his weekly general audience on 28 December.

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The 95-year-old retired pope “is sustaining the church in silence,” Pope Francis said. “Remember him. He is very sick.”

“Ask the Lord to console him and sustain him in his witness of love for the church until the very end,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Benedict XVI reads his resignation in Latin during a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican on 11 February 2013. Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that Pope Francis went to Pope Benedict’s residence after the audience to visit him.

“I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been a worsening (of Pope Benedict’s health) due to advancing age,” Bruni said. “The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly followed by doctors.”

In a statement to reporters the next day, Bruni said the retired pope had rested well overnight and “is absolutely lucid and alert.”

“Although his condition remains serious,” Bruni said, as of midday on 29 December he was stable.

“Pope Francis renews his invitation to pray for him and accompany him in these difficult hours,” Bruni added.

Cardinals, bishops, bishops’ conferences and faithful around the world offered prayers for the ailing former pope and the Diocese of Rome announced that an evening Mass would be offered Dec. 30 in the Basilica of St. John Lateran “for our beloved Benedict XVI.”

In the 24 hours after Pope Francis asked for prayers for his predecessor, news crews started heading to St. Peter’s Square to give updates, although there was not much new to report. The square was filled with pilgrims, tourists and families taking advantage of the holidays to see the Nativity scene and visit St. Peter’s Basilica.

On 11 February 2013, Pope Benedict announced that he would retire effective on 28 February that year. He spent the first several months of his retirement at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo before moving into the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican Gardens where he has lived since.

In resigning the highest office in the Church he became the first pope to do so in six centuries and one of the handful to have ever resigned the papacy in 2000 years. His decision stunned Catholics and the wider world, used to seeing popes reign until their death.

However midway through his papacy, which ran from 2005 to 2013, he indicated in a book-length interview that it was possible and appropriate in some circumstances for a pope to retire if he felt he was unable to fulfil the obligations of his office.

“Yes. If a Pope clearly realises that he is no longer physically, psychologically, and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign,” he told German journalist Peter Seewald in 2010.

The retired pope has looked increasingly frail, but as recently as 1 December the foundation that promotes his theological work released photos of him meeting with the two winners of the Ratzinger Prize. He also met in August at the monastery with Pope Francis and the new cardinals the pope had just created.

The retired pope celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on 29 June 2021.

Contributing to this story were Catholic Weekly staff.


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