Former Pope Benedict XVI writes that he is 'on a pilgrimage Home'

The former pope Benedict XVI has said that he is 'on a pilgrimage Home' in a letter to an Italian newspaper in which he said this was the 'final period of my life'.

The Pope Emeritus wrote a nine-line letter to Corriere della Serra, thanking the paper's readers for their concern, and assuring them he is surrounded 'by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined'.

ReutersPope Benedict XVI finishes his last general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on February 27, 2013.

In the letter, reported by the Catholic Herald, the 90-year-old wrote: 'I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper want to know how I am spending this last period of my life.

'I can only say in this regard that, in the slow decline of physical strengths, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage Home,' he added, capitalising the Italian word 'Casa'.

'It is a great grace for me to be surrounded, in this rather tiring last piece of the road, by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined.'

Benedict said that he regarded the readers' concerns as 'company' on his journey, and assured them of his prayers.

The paper said that it had contacted the former pope through a 'reserved channel' to ask him how he was.

In response, Benedict sent the letter, marked 'urgent by hand', to the paper's Rome headquarters on Tuesday morning from the former pope's residence.

This coming Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of his shock announcement of his resignation, which took effect on February 28 that year and led the way for the election of Pope Francis.