Benedict XVI said that he abdicated because of insomnia

From personal experience, I can confirm that insomnia is a terrible affliction.


The insomnia suffered by Pope Benedict XVI was the “central reason” for his resignation in 2013: he revealed it himself in a letter sent a few weeks before his death to his biographer and released today by a German weekly.

The Pope emeritus [STOP calling him that!] sent a letter on October 28, a few weeks before his death, to his biographer, the German Peter Seewald.

In this document, revealed by the weekly Focus, Joseph Ratzinger, who passed away at the age of 95 on 31 December, explains that the “central reason” for his resignation in February 2013 was “the insomnia that had from the World Youth Days in Cologne” in August 2005, a few months after his election as successor of John Paul II.

His personal physician had then prescribed “powerful remedies” which had initially enabled him to carry out his role.

But these sleeping pills would have reached their “limits” over time, according to the letter of the Pope Emeritus [STOP calling him that!], and would have been “less and less able to guarantee” their usefulness.

This sleeping pill intake was also allegedly the cause of an accident while traveling to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012. The morning after the first night, he allegedly discovered that his handkerchief was “totally soaked in blood,” according to the letter cited by Focus. “I must have bumped into something in the bathroom and fell”, writes the Pope Emeritus. [STOP calling him that!]

A doctor was able to ensure that the wounds were not visible and a new personal physician is said to have insisted after this incident on prescribing a “sleeping pill reduction” and advised the Pope to only appear in the morning on his trips to the abroad.

The Pope Emeritus states in his letter that he is well aware that these medical restrictions “could only be sustainable for a short time” and this observation led him to resign in February 2013, a few months before the WYD in Rio which he believed was not able to “overcome”. He therefore resigned early enough for his successor, Pope Francis, to honor this visit to Brazil.

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  1. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    This wouldn’t have been as big a problem had everyone not decided that the pope was suddenly an international stadium act.

  2. adriennep says:

    Amen to that about the stadium act. It pains me even more to think he suffered like this almost all of his pontificate. Cannot the Pope have received better medical care? Only a bad medical hack keeps someone on sleeping pills that long. And I keep remembering that Raymond Arroyo used to joke that B16 was something of a hyper health nut, taking great care and concern over his health. How does that square with long-term sleeping pills?

  3. Sevens Dad says:

    Father, please educate this poorly – catechized Catholic…once upon a time the bishop in the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama retired and a new Archbishop was installed. The retired Archbishop was referred to as Bishop-Emeritus…why can’t that apply to the Pope?

    [After the retired Archbishop died did they still call him Emeritus?]

  4. I always believed that Benedict should have been named “Bishop Emeritus of Rome” as it was that office to which he was elected in conclave, by virtue of which he was declared Supreme Pontiff. That, and “Pope Emeritus” just sounded silly.

    But hey, that’s just me.

  5. donato2 says:

    Although many doctors will prescribe sleeping pills of various sorts on a long term basis, it is close to malpractice to do so. The long term reliance on pills actually tends to exacerbate insomnia. It does so by fueling the anxiety that is the cause of insomnia. Almost all insomnia is the result of anxiety about the ability to sleep. In order to overcome that anxiety and the resulting insomnia, it is necessary to have confidence in your ability to sleep. Reliance on pills undermines that confidence. Cognitive techniques, which are highly effective if the effort is made to learn them well, build the confidence in the ability to sleep and thus they, and not pills, are the solution to insomnia. (I know all the foregoing both from experience and extensive reading on the subject.)

  6. surritter says:

    I mean no disrespect to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI, but why would medical troubles be a good reason to resign/abdicate?
    OK…insomnia. But Pope St. John Paul II had Parkinson’s, and I’m sure there was a point when the medicine didn’t work anymore. Other popes had horrendous troubles but toughed it out.
    I suppose he wanted the Church to be led by someone with the strength to do it, but as mentioned above, it doesn’t require the stamina of constant travel. I can’t help wonder if many of today’s troubles in the Church could have been avoided or postponed if Benedict had continued on, even if his life would be shorter because of it.

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