“I might die tomorrow, but well, it’s all under control. I’m in good health,” the 86-year-old Pope joked with The Associated Press. “For my age, I’m in normal health.”
Diverticula are pouches that form in the intestines and can become inflamed or infected. The Holy Father had 13 inches of his colon removed in the summer of 2021 because of the condition, which is a common health problem, especially in the elderly.
He also spoke positively about his knee fracture, noting that he’s now able to walk, even if he avails of the wheelchair at times. “I still have to use this [the cane] so as not to fall.”
The Pope added that he always asks for the grace of good humor, noting as he has before, his prayer of St. Tomas More for this intention. “I ask for good humor, a sense of humor, because I have to help so many people and everything, and if I’m bitter, I’m not going to be able to help anyone. Also to be able to know how to laugh at oneself. This is good [for a person.] It is good for me — to relativize one’s importance, no?”
Pope Francis spoke of the death of Benedict on December 31 as having lost a father and a source of security when questions arose. “When a doubt arose I’d ask for a car and go to the monastery and ask,” he said. “I lost a good companion.”
The Pope said he had a feeling of veneration for Benedict, and — admitting it was a bit daring — said that despite the mere 10-year difference in age, he considered him a grandfather, “with the wisdom of a grandfather.”
During his pontificate, Francis has given great importance to the role of grandparents and has often spoken of the need to be close to our grandparents, to find our roots in them, and learn from their wisdom.
“Benedict was a gentleman. He never lost this gentlemanliness and at the same time, he placed himself at a certain level, to the side.”
Francis recalled how in the first years after his retirement, he participated in certain Vatican events. “He’d come to eat in the dining room of Santa Marta [where Francis lives]. Afterward he got sicker, and sicker, and stopped coming.”
The Pope spoke of how Benedict enjoyed visits, such as from each batch of new cardinals, but how as the years progressed, visiting him was more difficult “because he spoke very, very quietly. And there had to be present Sister Birgit (Wanting), who was his secretary for 40 years, or Bishop Gänswein, who knew, who heard him and repeated what the pope said. I recall the last visit in which he spoke to me, which was at the beginning of the year, it was almost impossible.”
Francis said that he considers the way Benedict lived to be “heroic.”
“Because it’s not easy to invent a coexistence like this after 1,000 years,” he said, in reference to how Benedict was the first pope to live such a retirement.
“He was very generous, very open-minded,” Francis continued, acknowledging that some wanted to use him, “and he defended himself against that as much as he could.”
“I don’t have words to describe his kindheartedness. He was a gentleman. A gentleman like those of the old days.”