Pope Francis has requested prayers for his predecessor, Benedict XVI, adding that the former pope is “very sick.”
Francis made the unexpected request on Wednesday after his general audience.
Benedict, 95, retired from his job due to declining age in 2013 and became the first pope in about 600 years to do so. Since then, he has made his home at the Vatican.
Francis asked the congregation to pray fervently for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who “in silence is sustaining the church,” he stated in Italian.
“Let us remember him. He is very sick, asking the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the church, until the end,” he stated.
There was great confusion as to whether Francis was referring to Benedict’s overall health or whether his predecessor was ailing.
When asked about Pope Benedict’s health, a Vatican spokesman stated, “The press office was seeking details.”
Those who had seen Benedict until recently described him as having a very fragile physique but a keen mind.
On December 1, he met the laureates of a theology prize that bears his name. Therefore that photo is one of the most recent of him. He was seated and appeared very frail.
Since his resignation, Benedict has been residing in a converted convent within the Vatican gardens with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and a small team of advisors and medical professionals.
Benedict’s stunning announcement to a gathering of cardinals on February 11, 2013, revealed his intention to quit. He said he no longer had the physical and mental strength to administer the church.
After announcing his resignation on February 28, Francis moved temporarily to the papal summer palace south of Rome as cardinals from across the world gathered in Rome to select his successor.
On March 13, 2013, Francis, the first pope from Latin America, was elected to succeed him.
There were occasions when having two men dressed in white in the Vatican was confusing, despite Francis’ frequent compliments of the previous pope and comparisons to having a grandfather in the house.
Those on the right saw Benedict XVI as their leader, and some on the extreme right refused to accept Pope Francis as the true leader of the Catholic Church.
Benedict was elected on April 19, 2005, becoming the first German pope in a thousand years when the reign of the immensely popular Pope John Paul II ended.
His fellow Cardinals picked him because they wanted stability and someone they could trust.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he led the influential Vatican doctrinal office, then called the congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for nearly 25 years (CDF).