Personal secretary says the pope emeritus is now preparing himself to meet God
VATICAN CITY — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Thursday celebrated his 88th birthday under a sunny Roman sky with a pint of beer and a joyous gathering with family and friends.
The Vatican’s Osservatore Romano Thursday released photos of the German Pope accompanied by his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, and his longtime private secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein, raising a toast with a group of Bavarians dressed in traditional garb outside his home in the Vatican Gardens.
In an interview with Mediaset television this week, the personal secretary of the pope emeritus said that, as the evening of life draws on, Benedict is preparing himself to meet the Lord.
“The Pope and I have talked about death various times. It is clear that a man who is about to turn 88 thinks about this, but [this] is a Christian art … because preparing oneself for death means preparing oneself for an encounter God, and this is a decisive encounter.”
Pope Francis offered Holy Mass for Benedict on Thursday morning, expressing his sincere hope that God “sustain him and give him much joy and happiness.”
Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to renounce the papacy, saying he no longer had the strength of body or spirit to carry on.
Archbishop Gänswein recently told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that he tried to persuade him to stay, but that the Benedict was firm and serene in his decision.
These days, Benedict spends his time praying, reading, keeping up with his correspondences, and playing the piano.
However, his days of writing have come to and end, Gänswein said. “He told me: ‘Jesus of Nazareth was my last book … I no longer have the strength to write,’ adding: ‘If I still had the strength to write, I would not have renounced the papacy.”
Asked why the Pope emeritus chose to live at Mater Ecclesiae — the former cloistered convent nestled in the Vatican Gardens — Archbishop Gänswein said that Benedict told him: “Upon reflection, I understood that Mater Ecclesiae would be the ideal place because it’s somewhat secluded, but at the same time it guarantees the freedom necessary to live a peaceful and hidden life.”
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.