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Francis says the former Pope Benedict is “very ill”, asks for prayers

origin 1Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrives at the airport for his return flight to the Vatican. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is “very ill”, according to his successor Francis. Sven Hoppe/dpa-Pool/dpa

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI is “very ill,” his successor Pope Francis said on Wednesday.

Francis asked the Catholic faithful at the end of a general audience in the Vatican for a “special prayer” for the 95-year-old Benedict.

“Remember him, he is very ill, and ask the Lord to comfort him and support him in this testimony of love for the Church, until the end”.

Francis and the Holy See have not provided further details on Benedict’s condition.

The Bavarian-born pope, whose name was Joseph Ratzinger before he was elected pope, has lived in relative seclusion in a Vatican monastery since his resignation in 2013.

For months Benedict was said to be physically frail and could barely speak.

The eighth German to become pope in Catholicism’s 2,000-year history, and the second non-Italian in nearly 500 years, Ratzinger chose the name Benedetto in honor of St. Benedict, the fifth-century founder of European monasticism.

Benedict resigned on February 28, 2013, the first pope in nearly 600 years to take such action. This paved the way for the election of his Argentine successor Francesco.