Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's "illness is subsiding," His Secretary Says

Benedict XVI prepares to board a plane at Munich airport, June 22, 2020. Credit: Sven Hoppe/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Benedict XVI’s personal secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein has said that the pope emeritus’ illness is “subsiding.”

In an interview with the German newspaper Südkurier, Archbishop Gänswein is reported to have said that Benedict XVI’s “illness is subsiding” and that his medication has been reduced.

Benedict XVI has been suffering from facial shingles, a bacterial infection of the skin which causes a painful, red rash. "The pain started after the death of his brother,” Gänswein told Südkurier.

"Whilst very unpleasant and painful, the illness was not life-threatening,” the archbishop said in the article published Aug. 9.

“This is pain that I do not wish for my worst enemy,” Gänswein said.

The pope’s personal secretary gave the interview with German media while visiting his hometown of Riedern am Wald in the Black Forest.

After papal biographer Peter Seewald reported last week that the former pope has been “very frail” since his return from visiting his dying brother in Bavaria in June, the Vatican clarified on Aug. 3 that Benedict XVI’s health problems were “not serious.”

The Holy See press office said  "the health conditions of the pope emeritus are not of particular concern, except for those of a 93 year old who is going through the most acute phase of a painful, but not serious, disease."

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

Seewald made the comments about Benedict XVI’s health after seeing him at his Vatican home in the Mater Ecclesia monastery on Aug. 1 where he presented a copy of his latest biography of the retired pope.  

The journalist said despite his illness, Benedict was optimistic and stated he might take up writing again if his strength returns. Seewald also said the former pope’s voice is now “barely audible.”

German media also reported Aug. 3 that Benedict has chosen to be buried in the former tomb of St. John Paul II in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The body of the Polish pope was moved into the upper part of the basilica when he was canonized in 2014.

Like John Paul II, Benedict XVI has written a spiritual testament which can be published after his death.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
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