Huge panic has erupted within the Italian city state after the 93-year-old returned from Germany in a worrying condition, with reports claiming the former Pope’s “voice is hardly audible”. Benedict was forced to stand down as leader of the church, citing fears over his capacity to continue in the position, in a move which saw current head Pope Francis take on the role. Yet, despite his controversial decision to become the first Pope to stand down while still alive since the 14th Century, Benedict once broke Catholic convention on a spat surrounding celibacy, leading critics to complain he should now no longer be given a platform to express his views.
According to today’s edition of the German Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, a report explained that Benedict was in Germany to visit his ill brother Georg.
The trip was the first time that Benedict had left the Vatican since his resignation back in 2013.
The report explained that although Benedict’s “thinking and memory are quick” he was “now extremely frail” following his month-long visit.
It added: “At the meeting the emeritus Pope, despite his illness, was optimistic and declared that if his strength increased again he would possibly take up his pen again.”
But previously, Benedict was heavily criticised for “breaching convention” of whether he should be allowed to use his position to influence Francis by historian and theologian at Villanova University, Massimo Faggioli.
Benedict’s intervention earlier this year centred around the ongoing dispute over priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church, and at a time when Francis was debating whether to ease a ban on married men serving as priests.
He explained that “it doesn’t seem possible to realise both vocations [priesthood and marriage] simultaneously” in comments made within a book allegedly co-authored with Cardinal Robert Sarah called ‘From the Depths of Our Hearts’ in January.
It was a bombshell move, as reported by the BBC, as Benedict had sparingly intervened in clerical matters previously.
JUST IN: Pope Benedict XVI health fears: Former Pope ‘seriously ill’
Francis, many liberal supporters of the church believed, would back a move to allow married men to become priests in the hope to get more priests back in the fold, particularly in the Amazon regions.
This didn’t materialise though, and Francis – who is said to have initially supported some relaxing of the rules – dismissed the notion, with many claiming Benedict’s intervention was one of the driving forces behind the decision.
Although the decision did not go the way some had hoped for, many worshippers within the Amazon regions argued that the church “wasn’t mature enough” to make the change.
Atilio Battistu, a Franciscan friar in the Brazilian rainforest state of Para – which has around 600 Catholic communities – told the Washington Post: “I had high hopes about this, even if it would not solve all the problems of the Amazon and of the Church.
“I do not believe Pope Francis was against this decision.
“It is not the moment yet. The church is not mature enough for this.”