Pope Francis called the attention of Catholics worldwide to prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, 95, during his morning audience on Wednesday. The pope asked for Catholics to pray for Benedict and recognized the vital role the pope emeritus continues to play within the church. Vatican officials confirmed that Benedict’s health was declining.
The pope said, “I ask to all of you a special prayer for the Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the church. Remember him – he is very ill- asking the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this testimony of love for the Church until the end.” The pope’s comments were followed later in the morning by an official statement to reporters from Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni. According to MSN, he said, “the situation at the moment remains under control and is constantly followed by doctors.” Bruni continued by telling reporters Benedict’s age was worsening “due to advancing age.”
Pope Francis visited with Benedict following the Wednesday morning general audience and request for prayer. Francis visited Benedict at the monastery on Vatican City grounds where the pope emeritus resides.
Benedict resigned in February 2013, becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign, by citing declining health as the cause of the resignation. Since his resignation he has made several public appearances, but those have declined in the last few years. It is during those public appearances that he has appeared increasingly sick and frail.
The most recent controversy with Benedict came after a book the pope emeritus co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah was released. Critics and opponents claimed Benedict did not have anything to do with co-authoring the book and Cardinal Sarah, along with the publisher of the book, reputed those claims. It is not unusual for Benedict to author, or co-author, a book since he has written multiple theological books.
Since his resignation, Benedict has spent his time primarily in prayer for the church and meditation. It is only fitting and right that the church return the prayers for the pope emeritus during such a crucial time for him and the church.