I'm preparing for death - Pope Benedict XVI

In his February 7 column accompanying the letter, Franco noted that the signature of Benedict is "now tiny, nearly shrinking along with his physical force".

Benedict, who in February 2013 became the first pope in six centuries to resign, wrote a letter to the Corriere della Sera newspaper thanking readers for their best wishes as he approaches the fifth anniversary of stepping down.

Benedict XVI says he is in the final stages of his life, describing himself as on a "pilgrimage Home" surrounded by a "love and goodness" he had never imagined.

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Benedict, a conservative German, said he was "moved" by the concerns of readers, and said he sees them as "an accompaniment" in his life.

Yesterday an envelope marked "urgent hand delivery" arrived at Corriere della Sera's Rome office.

The pope emeritus was responding to a question sent to him by the newspaper about his well-being, and Benedict said he "cannot but be thankful" to the readers and others for their concern. This is why I can not but be grateful, assuring all of you of my prayers.

Since then, he has resided as pope emeritus in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery located inside Vatican City and close to where Pope Francis lives.

Pope Benedict XVI finishes his last general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican.

However, these visits have reduced in recent months.

He is the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, the first Jesuit Pope and the first from the Americas.


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