‘Lord, I love you’: Aide recounts Benedict’s last words


A nun and a priest walk past St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. Pope Benedict, the German theologian who will be remembered as the first pope in 600 years to resign, has died, the Vatican announced Saturday Dec. 31, 2022. He was 95. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s last words were “Lord, I love you,” his longtime secretary said Sunday, quoting a nurse who helped care for the 95-year-old former pontiff in his final hours.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, a German prelate who lived in the Vatican monastery where Benedict took up residence after his 2013 retirement, said the nurse recounted hearing Benedict utter those words at about 3 a.m. Saturday. The retired pope died later that morning.

“Benedict XVI, with a faint voice but in a very distinct way, said in Italian, ‘Lord, I love you,’″ Gaenswein told the Vatican’s official media, adding that it happened when the aides tending to Benedict were changing shifts.

“I wasn’t there in that moment, but the nurse a little later recounted it,″ the archbishop said. ”They were his last comprehensible words, because afterwards, he wasn’t able to express himself any more.”

Gaenswein did not identify the male nurse who shared the information.

Earlier, the Vatican said that Pope Francis went to pay his respects immediately after Gaenswein called to inform him of Benedict’s death shortly after 9:30 a.m. Saturday Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis stayed in Benedict’s monastery for quite some time before returning to his residence in a hotel located across the Vatican Gardens.

During New Year’s Day remarks on Sunday, Francis prayed for his predecessor’s passage to heaven and expressed thanks for Benedict’s lifetime of service to the church.

Francis departed briefly from reading his homily during a morning Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to pray aloud for Benedict.

“Today we entrust to our Blessed Mother our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, so that she may accompany him in his passage from this world to God,” he said.

The basilica is set to host Benedict’s coffin for three days of viewing that start Monday.

Rome Prefect Bruno Frattasi, an Interior Ministry official, told Italian state TV that “no fewer than 25,000, 30,000” mourners were expected to file past the coffin on Monday.

On Sunday, Benedict’s body lay on a burgundy-colored bier in the chapel of the monastery where he had lived during his nearly decade-long retirement. He was dressed in a miter, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment.

A rosary was placed in his hand. Behind him, visible in photos released by the Vatican, were the chapel’s altar and a decorated Christmas tree.

Francis remembered Benedict again later Sunday while addressing thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square. He told the crowd that “in these hours, we invoke her intercession, in particular for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who, yesterday morning, left this world.”