On Wednesday, Pope Francis said that his predecessor Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is “very sick” after his health deteriorated considerably. He asked his pilgrims at the Vatican to pray for him.

“I want to ask you all for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict who sustains the Church in his silence. He is very sick,” Francis said during his general audience at the Vatican. “We ask the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church to the very end.”

Also Read | Pope Francis marks 60th anniversary of Second Vatican Council

A Vatican spokesman later confirmed that “in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to the advancement of (Benedict’s) age.”

“The situation at the moment remains under control and continually monitored by his doctors,” the spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said. It was reported that Francis visited his predecessor at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City following his general audience. Earlier this month Francis revealed he frequently visited his predecessor.

Also Read | What is domino effect?

How old is Pope Benedict?

Pope Benedict is currently 95 years old. Nine years ago, in 2013, he shocked the world by making  an unprecedented decision to resign from his position, citing “advanced age.” At the time of his resignation, he was 85 years old.

It was the first time a pope had stepped down in nearly 600 years.

In 2020, the Vatican said Benedict had suffered from a “painful but not serious condition,” in response to reports in the German media that he was unwell. 

Also Read | Pope Francis warns of ‘domino effect’ of conflict

Two years earlier, Benedict wrote in a rare public letter published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that “in the slow waning of my physical forces, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage toward Home.”