Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has written a short letter to an Italian national newspaper to say that “with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.”

Benedict wrote the letter to the Corriere della Sera newspaper after its senior correspondent, Massimo Franco, wrote to him saying many readers were wondering how he was ahead of the fifth anniversary of his announcement to resign on Feb. 11.

In the letter published Feb. 7 on the front cover of the paper, Benedict also wrote that it has been a “great grace” to be surrounded by “such love and goodness that I could not have imagined.”

The letter, reproduced in full below, arrived at the offices of the newspaper yesterday with the words “urgent by hand”:

“Dear Dott. Franco,

I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper would like to know how I am spending this last period of my life. I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home. It is a great grace for me to be surrounded in this last, sometimes a little tiring, piece of road, by such love and goodness that I could not have imagined. In this sense, I also consider the question of your readers as an accompaniment along a stretch. This is why I cannot but be grateful, assuring all of you of my prayers. Best regards.”

Since his resignation in 2013, Benedict has been living in the Mater Ecclesiae former monastery in the Vatican gardens where he vowed to remain out of the public eye and dedicate his life to praying for the Church.

Apart from a few public appearances, mostly at important Church events, he has regularly received guests and friends in private.

However, these visits have reduced in recent months. A retiring diplomat accredited to the Holy See told the Register recently he was not allowed to say farewell due to the Pope emeritus’ increasing frailty. 

Those who have been to visit him recently say he is still mentally sharp but has difficulty moving and needs a walker to get around.