Pope Francis Wednesday thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for his silent service to the church and asked the faithful to offer special prayers for his predecessor, who, Francis said, is “very sick.”

Speaking during his Dec. 28 General Audience, the pope said, “I would like to ask you all to say a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict, who, in silence, is supporting the Church: remember him, he is very sick, asking the Lord to console him and support him in this witness of love for the Church until the end.”