Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is “lucid and vigilant” but his condition remains serious, the Vatican said Thursday in an update on the state of health of the former pontiff.
“He is absolutely lucid and vigilant and today, while his condition remains serious, the situation is stable for the time being,” Vatican press office director Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
“Pope Francis renews his invitation to pray for him and to accompany him in these difficult times.”
Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that his 95-year-old predecessor was “very ill” after his health deteriorated.
“I want to ask you all a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who supports the Church in his silence. He is very ill,” Francis said during his general audience at the Vatican on Wednesday. “We ask the Lord to console him and sustain him to the end in this testimony of love for the Church.
A Vatican spokesman confirmed later Wednesday that Benedict’s health had deteriorated “over the past few hours” and that Francis had visited Benedict at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world by taking the almost unprecedented step of stepping down from his post, citing his “advanced age”.
Benedict XVI’s announcement marked the first resignation of a pope in nearly 600 years. The last pope to resign before his death was Gregory XII, who in 1415 resigned to end a civil war within the Catholic Church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.
Benoît’s health has been declining for some time. In 2020, the Vatican said Benedict had suffered from a “painful but not serious condition”, following reports in German media that he was ill.
Two years earlier, in a rare public letter published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Benedict XVI wrote that “in the slow decline of my physical strength, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage home.”
Benedict has been a powerful force in the Catholic Church for decades.
Born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany in 1927, he was ordained a priest in 1951, made a cardinal in 1977 and later served as chief theological adviser to Pope John Paul II. He was elected 265th pope in April 2005, after the death of John Paul II.
Benedict became pontiff at the height of the global sex abuse scandal involving Catholic priests, as sex abuse claims and related lawsuits tore the church apart and threatened its moral standing around the world.
His legacy has been clouded by a recent review of his tenure as archbishop of Munich and Freising, between 1977 and 1982, following the release in January of a church-commissioned report into abuses by Catholic clergy.
The report revealed that he had been informed of four cases of sexual abuse involving minors – including two during his stay in Munich – but had failed to act, and that he had attended a meeting about a violent priest.
Benedict later rebuffed those claims, admitting he attended the meeting but denying intentional concealment.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said many people would have “mixed feelings” about the life of Benedict XVI. “Unfortunately, many victims of clergy abuse are not out of the woods in terms of healing their wounds and getting the justice they deserve,” SNAP wrote.