And according to reports, Pope Francis was the first at his bedside after the Pope Emeritus had died.
On the evening of January 1, Vatican News has confirmed with a slight modification the initial report of Benedict XVI’s last words.
Andrea Tornielli reports that the Pope Emeritus’ secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, recounted that Benedict last spoke at about 3 A.M. on December 31, some six hours before his death. He was not yet in his final agony, and his aides were taking turns accompanying him; on that shift was a nurse who doesn’t speak German.
“Benedict XVI, in a soft but clearly distinguishable voice, said in Italian, ‘Signore ti amo!’ (‘Lord I love you!). I was not there at the time, but the nurse told me shortly afterwards. Those were his last comprehensible words, because thereafter he was no longer able to express himself.”
“Jesus, ich liebe dich” (Jesus, I love you) were the last words spoken by Benedict XVI, according to the Argentine Vatican reporter Elisabetta Piqué of La Nacion, on December 31, 2022.
The journalist, considered to have very good sources in the Vatican, indicates that Pope Francis went immediately to the bedside of his predecessor as soon as he died. This was later confirmed by the Vatican.
When the Pope Emeritus breathed his last at 9:34 a.m., Archbishop Georg Ganswein, his secretary, phoned Pope Francis to inform him of the death. “Ten minutes later, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires was the first to reach his deathbed to give a last blessing and pray in silence next to his already lifeless body,” the Argentine newspaper’s website reads.
Pope Francis then offered his condolences to those in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, the Vatican residence where Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had been living since his resignation in February 2013. He greeted the two doctors and two nurses present, and then the four consecrated laywomen who were in charge of taking care of the Pontiff on a daily basis, and, finally, the secretary of the German Pope Emeritus, Sister Birgit Wansing.
According to the report in La Nacion, Pope Francis wanted the news to be shared right away, and so Archbishop Ganswein called the director of the Vatican press office, Matteo Bruni, who announced Benedict’s death to the world.
On December 28, the Argentinean Pope had already visited the Pope Emeritus, whose health had worsened then.
This afternoon, Pope Francis spoke “with emotion” of his predecessor, “dear Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI” during the homily at Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his first public words after the death of the 265th pope, he praised the “kindness” of the German Pontiff and expressed his gratitude for “all the good he accomplished, and above all for his witness of faith and prayer.”
Benedict XVI had requested that he be buried in the tomb that was originally used for Pope John Paul II, before the Polish Pope was moved to the main floor of St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his book-interview The Last Testament, we see this dialogue:
Seewald: ‘Co-worker of the truth’ would actually be something for your gravestone.
Certainly, yes. I would say if it’s already my motto you can set it on my gravestone.