Benedict XVI celebrates 91st birthday with his brother

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Italy, Apr 16, 2018 / 10:25 am ().- Benedict XVI turned 91 on Monday, celebrating “with his brother Georg in a calm and familiar climate,” according to a Vatican statement.

This evening, members of the Swiss Guard band are scheduled to perform in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in honor of the pope emeritus.

Pope Francis offered Mass in the morning for Benedict XVI, and sent him a greeting afterward, the Vatican said.

Benedict XVI was pope from 2005 to 2013. He shocked the world when he announced his resignation Feb. 11, 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength. On Feb. 28, he stepped down from the papacy. A conclave was called to name his successor, and on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis was elected.

 Pope Benedict XVI strolls in a garden with his brother Bishop Georg Ratzinger during his annual holiday in Bressanone, northern Italy.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Rumors regarding the retired pontiff’s health have arisen numerous times since he stepped down from the papacy, with reports that his death is imminent repeatedly denied by those close to him over the past five years.

Last year, Benedict’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said in an interview with EWTN that despite some physical ailments, the former pope was “in good spirits, very clear in his head and still has a good sense of humor.”

In a letter published Feb. 7 this year in Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Benedict said, “I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home.”

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