Pope Benedict is in very poor physical condition and may not have long to live, reports say.

"Benedict is in a very bad way," said Paloma Gomez Borrero, a veteran Vatican correspondent for Spain's Telecinco television network who met the former pope recently. "We won't have him with us much longer."

Benedict is now living in a monastery in the Vatican near where he once reigned. But he is fading fast say friends.

Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the Archbishop of Cologne, Germany, and a close personal friend  visited the former pope recently.

"I was shocked at how thin he had become," Meisner said at the time. "Mentally, he is quite fit, his old self. But he had halved in size."

Vatican officials have admitted Benedict has become weaker but have denied he is dying.

Gregory XII, the last pope who resigned in 1415, did not live long enough to see his successor chosen.

"There haven't been many popes to resign, but in the previous instances the popes did not live long after abdicating," said Alistair Sear, a priest and church historian. "Gregory XII didn't even live long enough to see his successor named."

Many of the faithful are still praying for him.

"He is in our prayers every day," said Maria Paoloa Santo Stefano, part of a community of Sisters of Mercy nuns based in Rome. "Pope John Paul suffered in public, and Benedict chose to suffer in private. But that does not make his mission less important and less brave."

Pope Benedict XVI is very ill say close friendsGoogle Images