Former Vatican Spokesman: Benedict XVI Is Ready to Meet the Lord

Father Federico Lombardi said the pope emeritus anticipates ‘the definitive encounter’ with God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI turned 95 in April.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI turned 95 in April. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office from 2006 to 2016, said that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is ready for “the definitive encounter” with God.

The Jesuit priest made the observation in an interview with Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops, on the occasion of his upcoming 80th birthday, which he will celebrate on Aug. 29.

In the interview, published Aug. 22, the priest, who was also provincial superior of the Italian Jesuits and director of the Vatican Television Center, recalled that he was able to accompany Benedict XVI “for almost his entire pontificate, from 2006 until his resignation from the Petrine ministry in February of 2013.”

Father Lombardi stressed that Benedict XVI “is a scholarly man” and would define him as “a pope-theologian with very clear ideas.”

The Jesuit priest also said a great virtue of the pope emeritus is “humility. In the conversations with me, he always spoke in Italian and not in German,” a language Father Lombardi learned when he studied theology in Frankfurt, where he was ordained in 1972.

Benedict only sometimes spoke in German, when he spoke with his secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, and, Father Lombardi said, “he had the courtesy to repeat the same things in Italian,” although it was not necessary.

His May Meeting With Benedict XVI

Father Lombardi said the last time he was able to see Benedict XVI was “on May 7, to tell him the news about the award of the foundation dedicated to him.”

Benedict XVI, who turned 95 in April, “still retains a formidable mental clarity,” according to Father Lombardi. “He has a really remarkable memory and capacity to connect for his age.”

The Jesuit also said that after seeing Benedict XVI, he was left with “the idea of a man who, despite his fragility, communicates serenity, thanks, I think, to an intense life of prayer.”

The priest added: “He always says goodbye giving you a beautiful smile and feels ready for the definitive encounter with the Lord.” 

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.