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ROME – A day after Pope Francis sounded the alarm over the ailing health of his predecessor Benedict XVI, asking the world to pray, the Vatican Thursday said the pope emeritus is “absolutely lucid and vigilant” but remains in serious condition.
In a statement, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said retired Pope Benedict XVI, 95, “managed to rest well last night, he is absolutely lucid and alert today, and although his condition remains serious, the situation is currently stable.”
“Pope Francis renews his invitation to pray for [Benedict] and to accompany him in these difficult hours,” the statement said.
The world rallied to prayer yesterday after Francis at the end of his general audience made a special prayer request for his predecessor, asking faithful to “remember him, he is very sick, asking the Lord to console him and support him in this witness of love for the Church until the end.”
A subsequent statement from the Vatican said Benedict’s health had worsened rapidly due to his advanced age, and that he was being monitored by his doctors.
Pope Francis visited Benedict after concluding yesterday’s general audience.
Apart from Bruni’s latest statement Thursday, no further information has been provided about Benedict’s condition.
Benedict XVI, who reigned from 2005 until he stepped down in 2013, shocked the world when he became the first pope in 600 years to resign from the papacy. The last public images of Benedict are from August, when he met with newly appointed cardinals who had just received their red hat from Pope Francis during a consistory.
In response to Francis’s request for prayer, the Diocese of Rome announced that they will hold a special Mass for Benedict XVI tomorrow, Dec. 30, at the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, which will be celebrated by Bishop Guerino Di Tora, one of Rome’s auxiliary bishops.
Italian Cardinal Angelo De Donato, the vicar of Rome, in a communique invited all communities in the diocese “to unite themselves in prayer for Benedict XVI, whose health conditions have worsened due to his advanced age.”
“In the celebration of holy Masses today and in the coming days let us accompany our dear bishop emeritus in this moment of suffering and trial,” he said.
There has been a mass outpouring of support for Benedict XVI on social media, and journalists and a handful of faithful were gathering in St. Peter’s Square Thursday awaiting updates on his condition.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen