Benedict XVI says he is now making a 'pilgrimage home'

Benedict XVI writes of his “pilgrimage towards Home” during “last tiring” stage of his journey

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI hinted on Wednesday that he is nearing death and ready for his final "pilgrimage" at the age of 90.

On 11 February 2013 Benedict made the surprise announcement that he was stepping down from the Chair of St Peter, becoming the first Pope to resign the papacy in nearly 600 years.

In a rare new letter penned by Benedict XVI, the retired pontiff said he is in the last phase of his life, and while his physical strength might be waning, he is surrounded by a "love and goodness" that he never imagined.

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"It is a great grace for me to be surrounded, in this last point of a sometimes tiring path, with affection and kindness that I would not have imagined", Benedict added.

The letter, dated February 5, was hand-delivered to Massimo Franco, a columnist for Corriere della Sera, the most prestigious newspaper in Italy, which takes the role of "newspaper of record" that the New York Times does in the United States.

He wrote the letter as the fifth anniversary of his historic resignation approaches.

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The letter, marked "urgent by hand", arrived at their Rome headquarters on Tuesday morning from "Monastero Mater Ecclesiae, V-120, Città del Vatican", the former Pope's residence. Benedict stunned the world, including the Roman Catholic Church and his closest confidantes within the Vatican, when he unexpectedly announced his intention to resign.

Pope Francis, his successor, was elected like all popes during a secret conclave of cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel.

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