The personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, has rejected reports that the former pontiff is close to death and said that a quote attributed to him that hinted as much on social media is false.
Rumours of Benedict XVI approaching death circulated on social media following the quote attributed to Ganswein, which read: 'Pope Benedict is like a candle that fades slowly. He is serene, at peace with God, with himself and the world. He can no longer walk without help and can no longer celebrate Mass.'
However, Archbishop Ganswein said that the quote was 'pure invention'. In comments to the German media outlet kath.net, quoted by the Catholic News Agency, he said: 'It is false and wrong! I would like to know who the author of this is.'
'I have received in the last two days many messages that refer to this phrase, and people are worried,' he added.
Ganswein confirmed that last week, Ratzinger's brother was at the Vatican to visit, and he has now returned home, adding: 'Both had a good time'.
Earlier this month a Coptic Catholic bishop of Egypt said that Benedict XVI is now very weak at age 90, but still 'aware of everything'.
Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of Assiut gave the account after a meeting with the Pope Emeritus at the beginning of September, according to the Swiss Catholic Information agency cath.ch.
On September 23, the German news website Mittelbayerische reported that Benedict is now too weak to celebrate Mass by himself, with Gänswein assisting him.