Last March, the personal secretary to Benedict XVI said his mind is as sharp as ever, but that he never imagined living this long.

A new letter from the pope emeritus published by the Wilhering Abbey in Austria shared similar sentiments, written after the passing of his closest friend.

“The news of the passing of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Winkler O. Cist., which you have conveyed to me, has affected me deeply. Among all colleagues and friends, he was the closest to me. His cheerfulness and deep faith always attracted me. Now he has arrived in the next world, where I am sure many friends are already waiting for him.”

Benedict XVI said “I hope that I can join them soon,” but “in the meantime, I am joined up with him and the monastic community of Wilhering in prayer.”

Father Gerhard Winkler worked closely with Joseph Ratzinger before he was Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg as a lecturer in Medieval and Modern Church History from 1974-1983.

Benedict XVI joined the University of Regensburg half a decade earlier in 1969 as a professor of theology.

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