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Vatican: Health of former Pope Benedict is 'worsening'

December 28, 2022

Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his predecessor, German-born Benedict XVI, who was the first pontiff to resign in several centuries.

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict had withdrawn from public life after stepping down in 2013Image: Malte Ossowski/SvenSimon/picture alliance

Pope Francis said on Wednesday that his predecessor, former pope Benedict is "very sick."

"I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the Church. Let us remember him," Pope Francis said.

"He is very sick, asking the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end."

In 2013, Benedict became the first pope to resign since the Middle Ages.

What has the Vatican said about the former pope's health?

A Vatican spokesperson said that the former pope's condition has worsened in recent hours and that Pope Francis went to see him.

The Vatican said that Benedict's condition was "under control," and that he was receiving constant medical care.

Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, said that he was joining Pope Francis in prayer.

"When Holy Father Francis tells us to unite in prayer, we will do that today, especially with young Christians," Marx said.

He was the first German pope in 500 years.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz "wishes the pope emeritus a good recovery and sends his thoughts to him", said government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann.

Who is former pope Benedict?

Born as Joseph Ratzinger in the southeastern German state of Bavaria, he became the leader of the Catholic Church in 2005.

The 95-year-old former pope lives in the Vatican. Benedict cited his declining health as the reason for his resignation in 2013.

Upon taking the role in 2005, he described himself as a "simple, modest worker in the lord's vineyard." He was the first pope in history to give an interview on television and spread his message via Twitter, which was founded in 2006. He was also called the "Green Pope" for pushing environmental issues to the forefront and calling for protecting "the habitat that sustains us."  Benedict has also criticized "the cruelty of capitalism that degrades man into merchandise."

The former pope was also a staunch conservative on religious matters. He has faced multiple controversies, including  sex abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church. Early this year, he admitted to giving false testimony in an investigation in the Munich archdiocese, which he said was unintentional.

Benedict apologized for scandals that emerged within the church and expressed "deep remorse," but denied personal wrongdoing.

sdi/dj (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)