The condition of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. has not changed overnight according to a report by the Ansa news agency. The 95-year-old is in poor health, but the situation is stable, the agency reported, citing unnamed people who were in contact with the former Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens. Benedikt has been living there in relative isolation since his resignation in 2013 and is now permanently monitored and cared for by doctors.

There was initially no official notification from the Vatican on Thursday. On Wednesday, the incumbent Pope Francis caused a stir when he announced that his predecessor was “very ill” and that the faithful should pray for the German. This had given many the impression that the Bavarian could be dying.

The Holy See then announced that the Papa Emeritus’ health had deteriorated in recent days, but that the situation was under control.

Many Catholics around the world followed Francis’ call to pray for Benedict. The US Bishops’ Conference, for example, published a prayer for the 95-year-old Benedict on Instagram; the chairman of the French bishops’ conference also commented on social media.

prayers in Germany

In Germany, Cologne’s Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki – whom Benedict made cardinal in 2012 – joined the call to prayer, as did other clergy. Among them were Georg B├Ątzing, the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference and Bishop of Limburg, the Archbishop of Munich and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer from Regensburg.

In Regensburg Joseph Ratzinger – as Benedikt was called by his real name – had taught at the university; his brother Georg died there in July 2020. In Benedikt’s Upper Bavarian birthplace of Marktl am Inn, Franz Haringer, the theological director of Ratzinger’s birthplace, lit a candle for the ailing Papa Emeritus.

Secluded life in the Vatican Gardens

Shortly before his brother’s death, Benedikt was last in Germany; after that he retired permanently to the monastery Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens. Age was making itself felt there. Benedict became physically weaker and had increasing difficulties, for example with speaking.

According to the Holy See, Benedict’s age-related condition has recently deteriorated; the Ansa news agency reported that the 95-year-old had had breathing problems for a few days. But the Vatican said the situation was “under control” and that Benedict was being constantly monitored by doctors. According to reports, however, he did not want to be taken to a hospital.

Worldwide sympathy

In many parts of the world, people and above all the spiritual superiors commemorated the former pope: from the archbishop of Sao Paulo to the cardinals of Washington and Boston to the archdiocese in Rome, who had presided over Benedict during his time as pope.

Benedict was Pope from 2005 to 2013 before he decided to retire from the pontifical office. Before that, the German, known as a brilliant theologian, was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and thus the supreme guardian of the faith of the Catholics for more than two decades. Many critics accuse him of not having sufficiently opened up the church through his conservative attitude. In addition, the revelations about abuse scandals – for example during the time as archbishop in Munich and Freising – cast a shadow over his vita.