Former Pope Benedict XVI reportedly in poor health after visit to Germany

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is reportedly in poor health.

Millions were alarmed by newspaper reports that the 93-year-old former pope is in a bad way after returning from a trip to Germany. The Vatican insists that his condition, while painful, is “not particularly worrying.”

Pope Benedict in poor health

Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger, was the first pope to step down in 600 years when he resigned in 2013 for health reasons, taking the title of pope emeritus.

At the time, Ratzinger said he was getting to be too old to lead the largest religious institution in the world, and his condition appears to have worsened acutely since.

His biographer, Peter Seewald, reported to a German newspaper that Benedict looked very ill when he visited him at his home in a Vatican monastery on Saturday. Seewald told Passauer Neue Presse that Benedict was cheerful but very frail, and his voice was barely audible.

Benedict is apparently suffering from shingles, a viral infection that causes painful rashes.

The report followed a June trip by Benedict to visit his dying brother, Reverend Georg Ratzinger, in their native Bavaria. It was Benedict’s first time leaving Italy since he stepped down. His brother died at 96 on July 1.

“Not particularly worrying”

On Monday, a Vatican spokesman said in a statement, “The health conditions of the Pope Emeritus are not particularly worrying, apart from being those of an old man of 93 who is overcoming the most acute phase of a painful but not grave illness.”

Often seen as more conservative than his successor, Pope Francis, Benedict is the author of countless books, and together with Seewald has published four. He told his biographer that he would like to start writing again if and when his health permits.

According to the Catholic News Agency, a bishop in Germany said that Benedict “clearly has trouble articulating” and “speaks in a low, almost whispering voice” but “his thoughts are perfectly clear.”

While his voice may be physically weakened, Benedict continues to express his concerns about the state of the world, warning of a “worldwide dictatorship of seemingly humanist ideologies” in his new biography.

“Modern society is in the process of formulating an anti-Christian creed, and resisting this creed is punished by social ex-communication,” he writes.

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