During the latest general audience on December 28th, Pope Francis has called upon the faithful to pray for the “very ill” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
“I would like to ask all of you to pray a special prayer for the Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the Church,” Francis said, urging prayers for “the Lord to console him and to support him in this testimony of love for the Church until the end.”
Benedict XVI, who became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the Holy See in 2013, has been living a secluded life ever since in a former monastery in the Vatican gardens. He is cared for by a group of cloistered nuns who reside on Vatican grounds, and is supported by his long-time secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein. The latter stated back in April of this year that the 95-year-old Benedict was “physically relatively weak and fragile,” but “in good spirits.” As recently as early December, Benedict had still privately met with the prize winners of this year’s Ratzinger prize, named after Benedict’s civil name.
Despite media smear campaigns that aim to reinterpret Benedict’s papacy as being one of turmoil and scandal, the Pope emeritus remains ever popular and beloved among many Catholics. He is considered as one of the 20th centuries’ most remarkable theologians and ignited a conservative renaissance—albeit short-lived—within the Catholic Church.