Pope Emeritus Benedict in failing health, says colleague

German cardinal 'shocked' to see retired pontiff's decline

Pope Emeritus Benedict in failing health, says colleague

Berlin, May 8 - A colleague of retired pope Benedict XVI says the former pontiff is in failing health, according to published reports. Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, said he was shocked at the declining health of Benedict. During a meeting between the two clerics on March 18, Meisner said he was stunned at how small Benedict had become, saying he was only half of his previous size, the German Catholic News Agency (KNA) reported. Meisner said he had initially opposed Benedict's announcement in February that he intended to resign because of declining physical and mental strength. Such a step had not been taken in modern times. The last pope to abdicate was Gregory XII in 1415. But since seeing the 86-year-old Benedict, Meisner said, "my reservations have melted". Benedict continues to be "very fit, like before," in terms of his mental acuity, added Meisner. The retired pontiff moved back into the Vatican last week after spending two months in the papal summer retreat of Castel Gandolfo. It is the first time two living pontiffs - one retired, the other sitting, Pope Francis - have resided simultaneously behind the Vatican walls.

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