Archbishop Gänswein says Pope Emeritus is 'like a candle that is slowly, serenely fading'

Although retired pope Benedict XVI is growing more frail, there are no particular concerns or worries regarding his health, a Vatican spokesman has said.

Fr Federico Lombardi issued a statement following an interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the retired pope’s personal secretary, in which the archbishop said Benedict XVI was slowly “fading”.

“In April, pope Benedict XVI turns 89 years old. He is like a candle that is slowly, serenely fading, as it happens with many of us. He is calm, in peace with God, with himself and the world,” Archbishop Gänswein told the Italian magazine BenEssere.

The retired pope’s personal secretary added that Benedict still retains “his refined, subtle sense of humour” and remains fond of cats.

“Contessa and Zorro, two cats that live in our gardens, come often to say hello to the Pope Emeritus,” he said.

After questions were raised regarding the ex-pontiff’s health, Fr Lombardi said his condition “does not raise any particular concerns”.

“Of course, it is part of the effects of old age and a gradual, growing fragility of the physical condition as with any elderly person,” he said. “[Benedict’s] mind is perfectly lucid as we recently witnessed in his extraordinary interview with an Italian publication.”

In that interview, published in mid-March with Belgian Jesuit Fr Jacques Servais, Benedict XVI reflected on the theme of mercy as a “sign of the times” that shows how, deep down, people still experience a need for God.

“Mercy is what moves us toward God, while justice makes us tremble in his sight,” he said.