Former Pope Benedict XVI's health has deteriorated, the Vatican has said. Pope Francis said the health of the former pontiff is quite bad and sought prayers from the Catholic believers. Concluding his final audience for the believers this year, Pope Francis asked the faithful to "pray a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict".
"I would like to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who is sustaining the church in silence ... Remember him â he is very ill â asking the Lord to console him and to sustain him in this testimony to love for the church, until the end," the Pope said.
Pope Benedict, 95, has been battling ill health ever since he stepped down from the leadership of the world's biggest religious community.
Benedict, who was appointed as the Pope in 2005 after retirement of Pope John Paul II, stood down from the high pedestal in 2013, citing ill health. The unprecedented move shocked the Catholic world, and there was significant opposition to the action from among the believers. By stepping down as the Pontiff, Benedict became the first leader of the Catholic Church to stand down in 600 years.
Benedict, who succeeded charismatic leader Pope John Paul II, had to lead the Church through tough times marked by controversies including financial problems, sexual abuse scandals and infighting among the Vatican bureaucrats.
Benedict, who was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became the Pope,was also known as a theologian who espoused doctrinal orthodoxy in the Catholic church.
According to the Vatican, Benedict's health has been declining in recent days. "The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly followed by doctors," Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, according to the BBC.
"Regarding the health condition of the emeritus pope, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of his general audience this morning, I can confirm that in the last hours, a worsening due to advanced age has happened,â³ Bruni added.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis walked down the Vatican Gardens to see Benedict, who has been living at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery. Earlier, the Pope had said that he made frequent visits to the former Pontiff and that Benedict was a "saint".
Following the Pope's revelation about Benedict's ill health, the senior clergy of the Catholic Church offered prayers for the former leader. "In these difficult and serious moments, let us unite in fervent prayer for our dear Pope Emeritus," Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah, the most senior African prelate at the Vatican, said, according to BBC.