The Vatican released a statement recently noting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s health has deteriorated due to his advanced age, and medical personnel are working vigilantly in monitoring the situation. On this same day, Pope Francis went to visit Benedict at his residence in the monastery on Vatican grounds, having asked for prayers from believers earlier in the morning. “Regarding the health conditions of the emeritus pope, for whom Pope Francis asked for prayers at the end of his general audience this morning, I can confirm that in the last hours, a worsening due to advanced age has happened,” stated Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni.

“The situation at the moment remains under control, constantly monitored by doctors. ”

Concluding his Wednesday address in a Vatican auditorium, Pope Francis emotionally detoured from his intended remarks to share the news that former Pope Benedict was “very sick” before imploring those present to pray for him. The pope provided no further information about Benedict’s current health state. “I’d like to ask all of you for a special prayer for Emeritus Pope Benedict, who, in silence, is sustaining the church,” Francis stated.

“I remind you that he is very sick. Let’s ask the Lord to comfort him and sustain him in this testimony of love to the church to the very end. ”

Benedict, who made history as the first pope to resign in 600 years, has been facing physical weakness during these recent years while devoting his post-papacy life to prayer and meditation. When he turned 95 this April, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein shared that although Benedict’s body was frail, his mental sharpness remained intact. Pope Francis himself visited Benedict at a monastery four months ago with newly appointed cardinals accompanying him.

In the moment, a snapshot captured Pope Francis and Benedict in an intimate embrace as they beamed at one another.

Starting in his first years of retirement, Benedict partook in two cardinal-elevating ceremonies at St. Peter’s Basilica. Nevertheless, as he aged and his health deteriorated, these lengthy services soon became too much for him to attend. In 1977 Pope Paul VI chose to elevate him to the rank of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – a decision that would later prove prophetic when he was elected pontiff eight years later in 2005.

Traditionalists mourned when Pope Benedict resigned in 2013, but Francis praised the move as a brave recognition that his physical limitation kept him from adequately catering to all 1.3 billion Catholics worldwide.

Recently in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC, Pope Francis divulged that shortly after his election he drafted a resignation letter as a precautionary measure should any medical issues hold him back from fulfilling his obligations. It is known that the pontiff has suffered through health concerns such as knee ligament problems, for which he uses either a wheelchair or cane. Despite this challenge, he remained unfazed in the interview and calmly proclaimed that “one governs with the head, not the knee.” Bishop Georg Baetzing, leader of Germany’s bishops’ conference and supporter of Pope Francis, echoed the Pontiff’s plea for prayers to be said for Benedict.

“My thoughts are with the emeritus pope,” Baetzing stated. “I pray for him and ask the Lord to give him strength and peace.”