This last photograph of Pope Benedict and his successor had me worried about him.
I am not a clothes person, but his cassock looks as though it was made for some else. The shoulder of his sleeve has dropped considerably and the cuff looks as if it has folded back almost to the elbow to compensate, and generally there is just too much cloth. Rome Reports spoke last week of a journalists visit to him, and his comment that he had physically diminished.
Ethelreda's Place also has this report:
"Benedict is in a very bad way," said Paloma Gomez Borerro, a veteran Vatican correspondent for Spain's Telecino who visited the former pope in late May. "We won't have him with us much longer."I had never thought that Benedict "would flee from the wolves", and despite his obvious disappointment at betrayal by a member of his personal staff and the whole "vatileaks" thing, it would seem quite out of character to just get up and go. What would seem in character is a desire to avoid a long public death, of growing increasingly frail in public and less able in private. In the time between his resignation and his departure he himself had said it was simply because of old age.
Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne, Germany, and a personal friend of Benedict's, visited the former pope in April.
"I was shocked at how thin he had become," Meisner said at the time. "Mentally, he is quite fit, his old self. But he had halved in size."
Vatican officials have admitted Benedict has weakened since stepping down, but they deny his physical condition has become critical.
In short, what he wanted to avoid was a death like John Paul II's with all the uncertainty that brought about, with the tussle, primarily between the CDF and the Secretariate of State under Cardinal Sodano. Remember how Ratzinger had to wrestle to get the the CDF to take responsibility for child abuse away from the Secretariate, how Sodano had dismissed the whole matter as a "press gossip", and the problems afterwards with getting Sodano out and Bertone in to the Secretary of States Apartment, which act as "gate" to the Apoostolic Apartments and therefore monitor who had access to the Pope - remember those unsavoury characters like Marcel Maciel who had access, via Sodano and his personal secretary Stanisław Dziwisz, to JPII, whilst others were denied access. I think that accounts for one reason why Francis wisely has two "homes", he uses the Apostolic Apartment for work but lives in Santa Marta. It is not simplicity or humility - there are no gate-keepers at Santa Marta.
Many "insiders" suggest that appointments and policy for several years before his death were very much out of the control of JPII, his seal and signature was used without his knowledge or comprehension, Vatican departments were forced to side with one faction or another, which resulted in Curia becoming out of control and unfocused, "biting one another" as Benedict said, continuing the lupine metaphor.
This is what Benedict wanted to avoid, pray for him.