Former Pope Benedict Shares He is on a 'Pilgrimage Towards Home'

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Benedict XVI says he is in the final stages of his life, describing himself as on a "pilgrimage Home" surrounded by a "love and goodness" he had never imagined.

"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.

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The letter was reportedly a response to an Italian newspaper's inquiry about how he was doing.

In the letter published February 7 on the front cover of the paper, Benedict also wrote that it has been a "great grace" to be surrounded by "such love and goodness that I could not have imagined".

"Because of this", he wrote, "I can not but be thankful, on my part assuring you all of my prayers".

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He said he was "moved that so many readers want to know how I spend my days in this, the last period of the life".

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.

Those close to him say he is still sharp mentally but has mobility problems and needs a walker to get around.

Apart from a few public appearances, mostly at important Church events, he has regularly received guests and friends in private.

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

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