Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI ventured out of his residence in the Vatican Mater Ecclesiae monastery last week for a trip of several hours’ duration to sites in the Castelli Romani region outside Rome.

The adventure has raised new questions about Pope Ratzinger’s state of health.

Driving the news

Benedict XVI left the Vatican Thursday at 4.15pm in a black Mercedes with tinted windows for a trip first to Castel Gandolfo.

The Pope Emeritus greeted workers at the papal summer residence and strolled around the gardens, praying the rosary.

Benedict XVI then travelled to Rocca di Papa, in the sanctuary of the Virgen del Tufo, to pray and to greet the parish priest.

Lastly, Ratzinger travelled to the episcopal palace at Frascati for dinner with Bishop Raffaello Martinelli, who had invited the Pope Emeritus for a visit.

Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican at 10.30pm.


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Go deeper

The Pope Emeritus’ escape from the Vatican has raised all sorts of questions.

Not least because the reason he gave to renounce the papacy in 2013 was that “my strength is no longer adequate, given my advancing age”.

He also said that after he stopped being pope he would “withdraw into prayer” and “remain hidden to the world”.

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The intrigue

But as Vatican News reported, Benedict seemed reasonably mobile during his visit to the Virgen del Tufo sanctuary.

“The Pope Emeritus entered, accompanied by a wheelchair, and first of all he wanted to kneel to recite with those present a prayer to the Virgin”, Frascati vicar general Raffaello Torelli, present during the visit, was quoted as saying by Vatican News.

Torelli said he found Benedict “very kind, very lucid and with great faith”, despite his physical difficulties.

The vicar general of Frascati declared that during their time together the Pope Emeritus transmitted a “great peace”.

Torelli also affirmed that Ratzinger had enjoyed a light dinner of “friendship” with Bishop Martinelli.

He added that bishop and pope enjoy a “great familiarity”, owing to the fact that the two worked together in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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