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Catholic Conclave - emphasis mine | January 27, 2023

Shortly before his death, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described in a letter why he resigned.

In a letter that has now been published, the now deceased Pope Benedict XVI explained why he resigned in 2013. He had been "accompanied" by insomnia for years and had only been able to fulfil his duties with the help of strong medication.

Pope Benedict XVI resigned ten years ago, according to his own statement, because he could no longer sleep during almost his entire term in office. This is reported by Focus magazine, citing a letter to Benedict's biographer Peter Seewald, which is printed in the Focus issue to be published on Saturday. The letter, which Benedict sent to Seewald a few weeks before his death on 28 October 2022, literally states that the "central motive" for his resignation "was the insomnia that had accompanied me continuously since World Youth Day in Cologne".

The World Youth Day took place in August 2005, four months after Joseph Ratzinger's election as head of the Roman Catholic Church. In the beginning, his personal physician at the time had prescribed "strong remedies" for him, according to the letter written in German. These initially worked and guaranteed his "availability" as Pope. However, the medicines soon "reached their limits" and were "less and less able to ensure" his availability.

Finally, during his trip to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, there was an incident. In the morning after the first night, he reached for his handkerchief as usual, according to Benedict in the letter. This was "totally soaked with blood". "I must have bumped into something in the bathroom and fallen." A surgeon had "thankfully" managed to treat the matter in such a way that the injuries were not visible.

After this accident, his new personal physician had urged a reduction in sleeping pills and insisted that he, Benedict, only be allowed to appear in public on mornings during future trips abroad. According to Benedict, it was clear to him that these medically justified restrictions "could only apply for a short time". Since the next big trip abroad, the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, was to take place in July 2013 and he had known that he would no longer be able to "cope" with this date, he had planned his resignation so early that a "new Pope" would already be able to travel to Rio, Benedict writes.

Biographer Seewald wants to end speculation about resignation

In the letter to the German journalist and author Seewald, Benedict XVI emphasised that even now, after "sober and thoughtful reflection, time and again" he had come to the decision to resign. At that time, he was no longer able to exercise the office appropriately.

Seewald confirmed the authenticity of the letter to the Catholic News Agency on request and justified the publication with the fact that he wanted to put an end to speculations about the resignation. "Rumours about blackmail and pressure of whatever kind that had been exerted on him will not go away," said the Munich publicist. He therefore felt obliged to publish "the decisive detail entrusted to me from the Pope's medical history". He said the letter showed that the resignation was for health reasons, "exactly as he expressed it in his resignation statement".

Benedict XVI unexpectedly announced on 11 February 2013 that he would resign as Pope on 28 February 2013. He justified his decision at the time with his dwindling strength. He was no longer able to exercise the office "as a result of advancing age". His successor Francis, elected on 13 March 2013, flew to Rio for World Youth Day. Benedict XVI died at the age of 95 on New Year's Eve 2022.