This year's birthday falls on Holy Saturday - as the day of his birth did - and thus there won't be a birthday celebration.
No celebrations have been organized this year for the birthday of the Pope Emeritus, because “Holy Saturday is the day that expresses the sepulchral rest of Jesus,” explained his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein in an interview with Radio Horeb, a Bavarian radio station.
The archbishop was, however, reassuring about Benedict’s health, which is relatively stable despite his advanced age.
On April 17, Benedict XVI will participate in Easter Sunday Mass in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae residence, but he can no longer be the main celebrant at Masses, because “he no longer has the strength to be on his feet the whole time and no longer has strength in his voice,” Gänswein said.
However, “he follows the liturgy, participates in it as a concelebrant, with great interior involvement. And he also draws new strength from it, day after day, for his life,” he said.
The last few months have been trying for Benedict XVI, who was forced to come out of his reserve to address the cases of abuse of minors that occurred in the Diocese of Munich when he was its archbishop between 1977 and 1982.
“Despite everything, he remained very serene. What he had to say, he said honestly and clearly. He has a clean conscience before God,” Bishop Gänswein explained in an interview published April 15 by the Polish weekly Niedziela.
Relatively stable health
The health of the Pope Emeritus does not cause any short-term concern, according to his secretary. Apart from the shingles that affected him in the summer of 2020 after his trip to Germany and the death of his brother Georg, no major health problems have been known to affect Benedict XVI since he renounced the pontificate. His longevity as pope emeritus – more than nine years – has now surpassed his service as reigning pope – less than eight years.
In his interview with Niedziela, Archbishop Gänswein acknowledged that Benedict XVI is now “a very weak man,” but assured that “thanks to God, he has great clarity of mind.”
“His presence is a message and a witness that is good for us who are close to him and for the Church,” he said.
A few days before his birthday, on April 13, the Pope Emeritus received a visit from Pope Francis, with whom he had a “brief but affectionate conversation,” the Holy See Press Office reported at the time.
Except for the dubious case of Pope Agathon (678-681), whose 106 or even 107 years of age mentioned in some documents is probably a legend, Benedict XVI is the first pope to reach such an elderly age. He surpasses by two years the age of 93, reached by Leo XIII in 1903, which remains the official record for a reigning pope.