Correction Appended: April 15, 2013
His Holiness Benedict XVI — Emeritus Pope, as he is now officially known — wasn’t kidding when he cited health reasons for his historic resignation back in February.
“Benedict is in a very bad way. In the last 15 days he has undergone a tremendous physical deterioration. We won’t have him with us for very much longer,” veteran Vatican journalist Paloma Gomez-Borerro tells The Telegraph.
Though how long that might be is a matter of great speculation, as other Vatican sources have played down such reports, accusing Gomez-Borrero of being “alarmist.” (Her comments came during an event to promote her new book about the transition between Benedict and Francis.) While the former pontiff had his pacemaker replaced earlier this year, Vatican officials insist that “Benedict XVI is not suffering from any specific chronic illness, ” according to the Vatican Insider.
Yet, it has been previously reported that the former Pope, who will turn 86 on April 16, is “nearly blind in one eye” and has been suffering repeated falls. “Anyone who has watched the Pope over the last few months has seen that he has deteriorated,” one source tells The Telegraph.
Benedict XVI’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, served from 1978 until his death in 2005, just one month shy of his 85th birthday. According to Catholic News Agency, Benedict XVI, before he resigned, made the same number of trips that John Paul II did in the same span of time during his pontificate. A voluntary resignation hasn’t happened to the papacy since 1415.
“His health problems are purely to do with old age,” said the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi in a statement released to Catholic news agency Aci Prensa. “But to say that he has an illness is foolish. There is no basis for this,” the press officer said.
The original version of this article said that Pope John Paul II died in 1985. His death, and the end of his pontificate, was in 2005.