Former Pope Benedict XVI is ‘very sick’, says Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Wednesday called for prayers for former Pope Benedict XVI, saying he is “very ill.”

Francis made the surprise appeal at the end of his general audience, without giving details.

Benedict, 95, in 2013 became the first pope in some 600 years to resign amid the clerical sex abuse scandal that has engulfed the church. He has been living in the Vatican ever since.

Formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, Benedict was born in Marktl Inn, Bavaria, in 1927. He was ordained a priest in 1951 and rose to become head of the Catholic church in 2005 at the age of 78.

Benedict was drafted into the German flak corps at age 16 and briefly detained by American troops in 1945 before being returned to the seminary.

An independent report in January found that the former pope had failed to act in four sexual assault cases when he served as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982. He later apologized for his handling of the cases but did not admit wrongdoing.

The former pope has largely stayed out of the public eye since his retirement.

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