Eight years since announcing his resignation, the personal secretary to the pope emeritus said Benedict XVI’s mind is as sharp as ever, but that he never imagined living this long.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect Papal Household and personal secretary to Benedict XVI, said in an interview that:

“It’s true that he is physically very frail, and his voice is becoming weaker. But the power of his eyes, the strength and intensity of his intellect and his mind is incredible! The faculties that are diminishing have made others grow stronger. At least that’s my impression.”

Ganswein noted that no other pope in the history of the Church has lived to be 93.

“We should keep that in mind. He tells me: ‘I’m nearly 94 years old, what do you want from me?’ He didn’t expect to live to this age. He’s even told me he didn’t imagine it would take so long to travel the distance from the end of his pontificate to meet Saint Peter at the Gate.”

Ganswein said the pope emeritus takes each day as it comes within the walls of his Mater Ecclesiae residence in the Vatican.

“He always dines with us, and eats what we eat, only much less. I say: ‘Holy Father, you eat like a church mouse, much too little.’ And he replies: “Yes, I don’t have an appetite. I eat, but I’m not hungry.” He gets up in the morning and comes to Mass. He concelebrates because he can’t stand anymore. But he joins me at the altar in his wheelchair and we concelebrate together.”

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