Pope Benedict, 85, says he’s in last stretch of life but God helps him go on
Pope Benedict marked his 85th birthday on Monday saying he is now in the “last stretch” of his life but sure that God would help him continue his mission.
Benedict, who has looked tired and drawn recently, is one of history’s oldest reigning pontiffs – and already older than his predecessor John Paul II was when he died in 2005.
The pope said a Mass of thanksgiving with German bishops and close aides. Afterwards, children in traditional garb from his native Bavaria danced for him under the frescoes of the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
“I find myself facing the last stretch on the road of my life,” Benedict said in German during the early morning Mass in a Vatican chapel.
He said he was confident that God’s light would help him “proceed with assurance”.
Benedict is now the oldest reigning pope since Leo XIII, who died aged 93 in 1903 after reigning for 25 years.
On Thursday, Benedict will mark another milestone when he celebrates the seventh anniversary of his election.
The pope has looked particularly tired since his return from a gruelling trip to Mexico and Cuba last month, followed by a hectic week of ceremonies leading up to Easter. But he was alert and smiling on Monday.
Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, he asked for prayers “so that the Lord may give me the strength to carry out the mission he has entrusted to me”.