Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. Credit: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk.
The Vatican said today the health problems of Benedict XVI are not serious, though the pope emeritus is suffering from a painful disease.
The Vatican press office said according to Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop George Ganswein, “the health conditions of the pope emeritus are not of particular concern, except for those of a 93 year old who is going through the most acute phase of a painful, but not serious, disease.”
German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse (PNP) reported Aug. 3 that Benedict XVI has facial erysipelas, or facial shingles, a bacterial infection of the skin which causes a painful, red rash.
Benedict biographer Peter Seewald told PNP the former pope has been “very frail” since his return from visiting his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, in Bavaria in June. Georg Ratzinger died July 1.
Seewald saw Benedict XVI at his Vatican home in the Mater Ecclesia monastery Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of his latest biography of the retired pope.
The journalist said despite his illness, Benedict was optimistic and stated he might take up writing again if his strength returns. Seewald also said the former pope’s voice is now “barely audible.”
PNP also reported Aug. 3 that Benedict has chosen to be buried in the former tomb of St. John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The body of the Polish pope was moved into the upper part of the basilica when he was canonized in 2014.
Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI has written a spiritual testament which can be published after his death.
After the former pope’s four-day trip to Bavaria in June, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg described Benedict XVI as a man “in his frailty, in his old age and in his finiteness.”
“He speaks in a low, almost whispering voice; and he clearly has trouble articulating. But his thoughts are perfectly clear; his memory, his combination gift phenomenal. For practically all everyday life processes, he depends on the help of others. It takes a lot of courage but also humility to put yourself in the hands of other people; and to show up in public,” Voderholzer said.
Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.
In a letter published in an Italian newspaper in February 2018, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”