In February 2013 Pope Benedict became the first Pontiff in 600 years to retire from his position. His explanation is “God told me to."

The 86-year-old Pope Emeritus was asked about his recent unexpected retirement at a secluded residence in the Vatican garden. He said that he had a “mystical experience” during which God had inspired him with an “absolute desire” to dedicate his life to prayer and to leave his role as Pope.

This revelation from the former pope was reported by the Catholic news agency, Zenit. They did not reveal who the Pope Emeritus had spoken to and made it clear that the he did not suggest that God had appeared to him.

A senior source at the Vatican told the Guardian, “The report seems credible. It accurately explains the spiritual process that brought Benedict to resign."

However when Pope Benedict stepped down on February 11 he made no reference to this spiritual revelation. He said, “My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry."

His health was also reported to be failing. A German journalist said he was going dead, appeared to be blind in one eye, looked emaciated and “exhausted”. There was also speculation that he was depressed and frustrated by a network built up by a pro-gay lobby of prelates at the Vatican.

According to the Zenit’s report the former pope’s mystical experience that led to his controversial decision to retire had lasted months.

He also said that the charisma the new Pope Francis I has shown has given him a great understanding that his decision to step aside was the “will of God”.

Also going against the rumors that Benedict’s decision to step down was due to ill health, the Pope Emeritus told of a trip to the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, last Sunday, indicating that he is well enough to travel.