Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that his 95-year-old predecessor Benedict XVI was "seriously ill" and praying for the one whose resignation in 2013 for health reasons took the world by surprise.
In front of the faithful gathered like every Wednesday at the Vatican, Pope Francis called for a "special prayer" for his predecessor. “To keep his memory alive, because he is seriously ill, to ask the Lord to comfort him and sustain him,” he said.
At the end of the morning, the Holy See confirmed the "worsening during the last hours" of the German theologian's state of health because of his "advanced age", specifying that the latter remained under permanent medical supervision.
“At the end of the general audience, Pope Francis went to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery to visit Benedict XVI,” said Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press service, in a press release.
German Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger resigned from office in 2013 due to failing health and has since lived in a monastery in the heart of the Vatican Gardens.
After eight years of a pontificate marked by multiple crises, this brilliant theologian was overtaken at the beginning of 2022 by the drama of pedocrime in the Church.
Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was Archbishop of Munich, he broke his silence to ask for "pardon" but assured that he had never covered up a child criminal.
His renunciation, announced in Latin on February 11, 2013, was a personal decision linked to his declining strength and not to the pressure of scandals, had assured the former pope, uncomfortable with crowds, in a book of secrets published in 2016.
With this gesture, unprecedented in 700 years, the first German pope in modern history paved the way for his successors whose strength would come to decline. François, 86 years old and suffering from knee pain, left this possibility “open” himself.
Speaking with difficulty, Benedict XVI has appeared increasingly fragile in recent months, moving around in a wheelchair. But he still continued to receive visitors in recent weeks, some photos on social networks showing a frail and visibly weakened man.
Born in 1927, Joseph Ratzinger taught theology for 25 years in Germany before being appointed Archbishop of Munich.
He then became the strict guardian of the dogma of the Church for another quarter of a century in Rome at the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, the former Holy Office, then pope for eight years (2005-2013 ), succeeding John Paul II.
As head of the Catholic Church, he defended a conservative line, notably on abortion, homosexuality or euthanasia.
His statements have sometimes created misunderstanding, such as on Islam, the use of condoms against HIV or the excommunication of four fundamentalist bishops in 2009.
His pontificate was also marked in 2012 by the leak of confidential documents (“Vatileaks”) orchestrated by his personal butler. The scandal had exposed a Roman Curia (Vatican government) plagued by intrigue and devoid of financial rigour.
The latest video of Benedict XVI, released by the Vatican in August on the occasion of the traditional visit of new cardinals, shows a weakened and emaciated man, equipped with a hearing aid, no longer able to speak but with still bright eyes.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)