Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about the “slow waning” of his physical strength and his “pilgrimage towards Home” in a letter sent to an Italian newspaper on Tuesday.

“It’s a great grace, in this last, at times tiring, stage of my journey, to be surrounded by a love and goodness that I could have never imagined,” Benedict wrote.

The letter, dated Feb. 5, was hand-delivered to Massimo Franco, a columnist for Corriere della Sera, the most prestigious newspaper in Italy, which takes the role of “newspaper of record” that the New York Times does in the United States.

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.

Letter sent by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to an Italian newspaper this week. (Credit: Corriere della Sera.)

In his Feb. 7 column accompanying the letter, Franco noted that the signature of Benedict is “now tiny, almost shrinking along with his physical force.”

The newspaperman said the pope emeritus “accepts his fragility” and said Benedict’s words are “a thanksgiving, and at the same time, almost a farewell.”

The pope emeritus resigned in 2013, saying the physical demands were becoming too much for him, and said he would retire to a life of prayer in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens.

Benedict turned 90 last year, and according to those close to him, is no longer writing on theological topics.

On February 3, photos of Benedict meeting with visiting bishops from Russia were published on Facebook, the first new images of the pope emeritus since November 2017.

Benedict’s older brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, turned 94 in January.