Prayers in Germany and Rome for Benedict XVI, in a “steady state”

The 95-year-old ex-Pope Benedict XVI, whose health has deteriorated in recent days, is in « stationary » condition, the Vatican said on Friday as Catholics continue to pray for the German theologian.

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« Currently, his condition is stationary, » said the head of the Holy See’s press service, Matteo Bruni. “Last night the pope emeritus was able to rest well. And yesterday (Thursday) afternoon he participated in the celebration of Mass in his room,” he added.

Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that his predecessor was « seriously ill » and called for prayers for the one whose resignation in 2013 for health reasons took the world by surprise. A mass for him must also be celebrated Friday at the end of the afternoon at the basilica of Saint-Jean-de-Latran, in Rome.

“His health deteriorated about three days ago. It is his vital functions that are failing, including the heart, ”a Vatican source told AFP on Wednesday, adding that no hospitalization was planned, the residence of Benedict XVI having the necessary medical equipment.

Francis himself visited Benedict XVI on Wednesday at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, the residence of the pope emeritus located in the heart of the Vatican gardens.

In Germany, in the Saint Oswald church in Marktl am Inn, where the former pope was baptized, a photo of Benedict XVI has been installed on a tripod near a baptistery. Photos of his 2006 visit to the town line the walls. Onlookers enter the white building from time to time, topped with a black steeple.

One of them, Tobias Ferstl, 43, prayed with his eyes closed for several minutes in front of the portrait of the former sovereign pontiff.

« I had to pass by here, so I decided to stop at the birthplace of the pope emeritus, » the fervent Catholic told AFP.

“I don’t feel great sadness or astonishment, but rather gratitude,” he says, with a few tears in his eyes, describing Benedict XVI as “a gentle person”.

« Heaven »

In St. Peter’s Square in Rome, the stream of tourists and pilgrims taking selfies in front of the Christmas tree and nativity scene contrasted with the few journalists present in the event of a Vatican announcement.

“He was a great pope, perhaps misunderstood by part of the Catholic world, but he served the Church. He gave extraordinary homilies and writings,” Carmelo Dellisanti told AFP.

Benedict XVI, whose eight-year pontificate (2005-2013) was marked by multiple crises, was overtaken at the beginning of 2022 by the drama of pedocrime in the Church.

Questioned by a report in Germany on his management of sexual violence when he was archbishop of Munich, he came out of his silence to ask « forgiveness » but assured that he had never covered up a paedocriminal.

« I think he had a hard time as pope, because of the pedophilia scandal, and he never really wanted to be pope, so it would be nice if he went to heaven, because he has had its day here,” said Annika Hafner, a 30-year-old German, in Saint-Pierre Square.

Joseph Ratzinger has appeared increasingly fragile in recent months, moving around in a wheelchair, but continuing to receive visitors. The photos of his last visit received, dating from December 1, show a frail and visibly weakened man.

On the last public video of Benedict XVI, released by the Vatican in August, we also see a thinner man, equipped with a hearing aid, who can no longer speak but whose gaze is still lively.


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