When Pope Benedict announced his resignation from the papacy February, he cited his advanced age and failing health as the main reasons why, claiming they prevented him from fulfilling the duties of his office to the best of his ability. However, he recently revealed the real reason why he stepped down: God told him to.
The Pope Emeritus told the Catholic news agency Zenit he underwent a “mystical experience,” in which God inspired him to step down as pope and instead pursue a life completely devoted to prayer. Benedict didn’t claim to hear a voice or see an apparition, but the experience was mystical enough to convince him to step aside.
A Vatican source told The Guardian the former pope’s recent comments seem to be legitimate, and make sense based on the decision making process that led to Benedict’s resignation, saying, "The report seems credible. It accurately explains the spiritual process that brought Benedict to resign," he said.
According to The Guardian, “Benedict said his mystical experience had lasted months, building his desire to create a direct and exclusive relationship with God. Now, after witnessing the ‘charisma’ of his successor, Pope Francis, Benedict said he understood to a greater extent how his stepping aside was the ‘will of God.’”
Zenit reported Benedict is currently living a life of secluded prayer, meeting with very few visitors at his home in the Vatican's gardens.
"During these meetings, the ex-pontiff does not comment, does not reveal secrets, does not make statements that could be understood as 'the words of the other pope', but is as reserved as he has always been," wrote Zenit.