German author calls Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ‘extremely frail’

Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI smiles at Germany's Munich Airport before his June 22 flight to Rome. Pope Benedict, 93, traveled to Germany to see his then-ailing older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who died July 1 at age 96.
CNS photo by Sven Hoppe, pool via Reuters

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – An author with a long and close relationship to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has told a German newspaper that the 93-year-old retired pope is "extremely frail."

Peter Seewald, the author who has published four wide-ranging book-length interviews with the retired pope, was quoted in the Aug. 3 edition of the Bavarian newspaper Passauer Neue Presse.

Seewald said he visited Pope Benedict Aug. 1 to present him with a copy of the authorized biography, "Benedict XVI: A Life."

The retired pope lives in the Mater Ecclesia monastery in the Vatican Gardens. Seewald said he visited with the former pontiff there in the company of Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Pope Emeritus Benedict's personal secretary.

Passauer Neue Presse reported Seewald describing Benedict XVI as "extremely frail," and as saying that while he is mentally sharp, his voice is barely audible.

The Vatican press office did not respond to Aug. 3 requests for comment.

Pope Emeritus Benedict had traveled to Regensburg, Germany, in late June to visit his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, who was ill and died July 1. Seewald reportedly told the newspaper that Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican "seriously ill" and that he was suffering from a painful case of shingles on his face.

The newspaper also reported that, according to Pope Benedict's spiritual testament, he wants to be buried in the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica in the chapel where St. John Paul II originally was laid to rest before being moved upstairs to the St. Sebastian Chapel in the basilica after his beatification in 2011.

In 1981, Pope John Paul II had called him to serve as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The two worked closely for the next 24 years, until St. John Paul's death in 2005.