The health of former Pope Benedict is severely deteriorating, Pope Francis has revealed.
“I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the Church in his silence. He is very sick,” Francis said during his general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday.
“We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end.”
Pope Benedict, 95, in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to step down, citing “advanced age.”
Since his resignation, Benedict has been living in a former convent inside the Vatican gardens with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and a few other aides and medical staff.
The last pope to resign before his death was Gregory XII, who in 1415 quit to end a civil war within the Catholic Church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that “in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to the advancement of (Benedict’s) age.”
“The situation at the moment remains under control and continually monitored by his doctors,” the spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said, adding that Francis visited his predecessor at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City after his general audience.
Benedict has become increasingly frail in recent years as he dedicates his post-papacy life to prayer and meditation.
One of the latest known photographs of Benedict was taken on Dec. 1, when he met the winners of a prize for theologians named after him. He was seated and looked exceptionally weak.