The Pope Emeritus has written to an Italian newspaper to say he is “on a pilgrimage Home” in this “final period of my life”.

In a nine-line letter to Corriere della Sera, Benedict XVI thanked the paper’s readers for their concern, and assured them he was surrounded “by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined”.

“I was moved that so many readers of your newspaper want to know how I am spending this last period of my life,” he wrote.

“I can only say in this regard that, in the slow decline of physical strengths, inwardly I am on a pilgrimage Home,” he added, capitalising the Italian word Casa.

“It is a great grace for me to be surrounded, in this rather tiring last piece of the road, by a love and a goodness that I could not have imagined.”

He said he considered the reader’s concerns as “company” on his journey, and assured them of his prayers.

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