Vatican says Benedict XVI's health worsening, Pope Francis asks for prayers

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The Vatican on Wednesday confirmed that the health of ex-pontiff Benedict XVI, 95, has worsened in the last few hours and he had been visited by Pope Francis, hours after the current pontiff said his predecessor is "very sick" and asked for prayers.

"I can confirm that in the last few hours there has been a deterioration due to advancing age. The situation at the moment remains under control, monitored continually by doctors," spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.

This came after Pope Francis said in a surprise announcement in Italian at the end of his weekly general audience: "I would like to ask all of you for a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the Church."

"Let us remember him. He is very sick, asking the Lord to console and sustain him in this witness of love for the Church, until the end," Francis said.

Until a few weeks ago, those who had seen Benedict said his body was very frail but his mind was still sharp.

One of the latest known photographs of Benedict was taken on Dec. 1, when he met the winners of a prize for theologians named after him. He was seated and looked exceptionally weak.

Since his resignation Benedict has been living in a former convent inside the Vatican gardens, with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and a few other aides and medical staff.

Benedict announced his intention to resign on February 11, 2013, shocking a meeting of cardinals. He said he no longer had the physical and mental strength to run the Church.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)


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