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Vatican denies former Pope Benedict is seriously ill (updated)

FILE PHOTO: Pope Benedict XVI (R) poses with Tanzania's President Benjamin William Mkapa during an official meeting at the Vatican October 1, 2005. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo

The Vatican on Monday denied a German newspaper report that former Pope Benedict was  seriously ill.

Responding to a report that former Pope Benedict’s condition was serious, the Vatican said his condition was “not particularly worrying” and that he was overcoming the acute phase of a painful but not grave ailment.

The clarification came hours after Benedict’s biographer, Peter Seewald, told  Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that he visited the 93-year-old ex-pope on Saturday and found him extremely frail.

Seewald said Benedict, who has been in frail health for some time, was now suffering from shingles, a viral infection that causes painful rashes and is common among older people.

Seewald said Benedict’s voice is barely audible – echoing something other visitors have said for months – and that the former pope told him he might pick up writing again if he regains his strength.

Benedict is the first pontiff in 600 years to resign instead of ruling for life.

In June, Benedict, who lives in a former convent in the Vatican gardens, left Italy for the first time since his resignation in 2013 for an emotional farewell visit to his older brother Georg in their native Bavaria.

Georg Ratzinger died on July 1 aged 96. The two brothers were ordained priests on the same day in 1951.

Benedict, who was elected in 2005 to succeed the widely popular Pope John Paul II after a reign of nearly 27 years, shocked the world and even his closest aides on Feb. 11, 2013, when he announced in Latin he was stepping down.

He told a gathering of cardinals that he was too old and frail to lead an institution with more than 1.3 billion members.

At the time of Benedict’s resignation the Vatican was mired in a raft of financial woes, sexual abuse scandals, and infighting among bureaucrats that led to leaks of important documents.

Benedict said his resignation was due exclusively to health reasons.

Hardline conservatives in the Church who have been alarmed by Pope Francis’ progressive moves have looked to Benedict as their standard bearer. This forced the former pope on several occasions to remind them that there is only one pope – Francis.



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