- Benedict served as pope for almost eight years
- Shocked cardinal’s retirement decision
- Conservatives viewed Benedict as a standard bearer
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, a hero of Catholic conservatives and the first pope in 600 years to abdicate in 2013, is “very unwell,” his successor Pope Francis said on Thursday. , asked a church member. pray for him
After the Vatican issued a statement following Francis’ announcement that Benedict’s health suddenly “worsened”, bishops in Europe, the United States, and other countries urged their followers to continue thinking about Benedict.
“I would like to ask all of you to send a special prayer for Pope Benedict, who silently supports the church.”
“Let’s remember him. He is very ill and we ask the Lord to comfort and support him to the end as a witness of his love for the church,” Francis said in Italian.
A Vatican statement said Benedict was receiving ongoing treatment and his condition was under control.
Francis, who visited the former pope after the announcement, has often praised Benedict for being like having a grandfather at home. .
Conservatives see the former pope as a standard-bearer, and some ultra-traditionalists even refuse to recognize Francis as the rightful pope.
They criticize Francis’ more welcoming approach to gays and Catholics who have divorced and remarried outside the church, both of which undermine traditional values.
Catholic church leaders in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and beyond have taken to social media to invite believers to join in prayers for Benedict, who was pope for nearly eight years before he abdicated.
German Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, said: “This morning we received news of great concern in Rome about the health of Pope Emeritus. That is why we especially want to include him in our prayers. I’m thinking about it,” he told churchgoers.
Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, called on the Italians to keep Benedict in mind “in this moment of suffering and trial”.
Until a few weeks ago, people who saw Benedict said that although his body was very frail, his mind was still sharp.
Italian news reports said he was suffering from respiratory problems around Christmas time.
The Vatican did not release details of his condition. He was approached by Benedict’s private secretary for comment but did not immediately respond.
One of Benedict’s most recent known photographs was taken on December 1 when he met the recipient of the Prize to the Theologian named after him. He was sitting and looking very weak.
Since his resignation, Benedict has lived in a former convent in the Vatican Gardens with his secretary Archbishop Georg Ganswein and several other aides and medical staff.
Benedict announced his intention to resign on February 11, 2013, shocking the Conference of Cardinals. He said he no longer had the physical and mental strength to run the church.
He formally resigned on February 28 of that year and moved temporarily to the Pope’s summer residence south of Rome while cardinals from all over the world came to Rome to choose their successors.
On March 13, 2013, Francis, the first pope from Latin America, was elected as his successor.
On April 19, 2005, Benedict, Germany’s first pope in 1,000 years, was elected to succeed the widely popular pope John Paul II, who has been in power for 27 years.
The Cardinals chose Benedict among numbers calling for continuity and what they called “safe hands.”
For some twenty-five years as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was the powerful head of the Vatican’s Doctrinal Secretariat, then known as the Congregation for the Doctrines (CDF).
Reported by Philip Pullella. Edited by Andrew Heavens and Edmund Blair
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