|Photo (c) from http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00382/121731918__01_382927c.jpg|
Years ago I met a priest who quickly became a friend, a mentor, and a guide in navigating the world of ideas and spirituality: the late Fr. Orestes "Russ" Coccia SJ.
Russ told me in words to the effect, "While we are on earth we are called to glorify God with our lives through prayer, holiness and service; after death we can no longer glorify him by doing anything, but he then glorifies us."
After speculation on a Spanish TV program that Benedict XVI was rapidly failing in health, and the report from Damian Thompson in the Telegraph, both of which were picked up by various Catholic bloggers here in the US, the Vatican has issued a statement to the contrary.
.- Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi says that contrary to a report in the Spanish daily El Mundo, the Bishop-emeritus of Rome, Benedict XVI, is not suffering from any illness.
The report in El Mundo by Rocio Galvan quotes statements made by Spanish Vaticanista Paloma Gomez-Borrero in Madrid during the presentation of her most recent book.
“Benedict XVI has something very serious. In 15 days his physical condition has deteriorated tremendously, that’s the news I have,” Gomez-Borrero said.
In comments to CNA on April 10, however, Fr. Lombardi underscored that Benedict XVI “does not have any illness” and that “this has been certified by his doctors.”
He said he was saddened by Gomez-Borrero's comments and that the Spanish journalist, whom he has known for many years, “has begun to speculate after seeing images of a tired Benedict.”
“But to say that he has an illness is foolish. There is no basis for this,” the spokesman said.
“As we all know, Benedict XVI led a very engaged pontificate at his age, and therefore he is enduring the aches and pains of an elderly person who has worked very hard,” Fr. Lombardi added.
Benedict XVI was Pope for eight years and resigned just shy of his 86th birthday. During his pontificate, he made the same number of trips that Blessed John Paul II did in same span of time but at a much older age.
He currently resides at the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo but will return to the Vatican to live once renovations at the former monastery of Mater Ecclesia are completed in May.
Pope Francis has visited Benedict XVI and spoken to him on several occasions by telephone since his election. The two maintain a cordial and close relationship.There is no need for a lurid death watch or idle gossip -- Christ is the Lord of both life and of death, and his good servant Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger is undoubtedly trusting of that reality. Like Fr Russ Coccia before him, Benedict has spent his life in prayer, holiness and service to Our Lord and his Church. Eventually, as for all of us, his opportunity on earth to glorify God will end, and we hold confidence that he and we will eventually enter into God's glorify in the beatific vision.
Let us continue to pray for our Pope Emeritus, as well as for all elderly who suffer the ravages of time and the loss of faculties and vitality.