Retired Pope Benedict XVI, who is due to turn 91 in April, told an Italian paper that he is preparing for death. Picture: Vincenzo Pinto

Rome - Retired pope Benedict XVI, who is due to turn 91 in April, told an Italian paper on Wednesday that he is preparing for death.

"I was moved by the fact that so many readers of your paper want to know how I am spending this last period of my life," Benedict told Corriere della Sera.

"The only thing I can say about this is that, as my physical strength slowly fades, I am on an interior pilgrimage towards home," the former pontiff said.

"For me it is a great grace to be surrounded, in this last stretch that is sometimes a bit strenuous, by so much love and goodness that I could have never imagined," he added.

Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Germany, retired in February 2013, citing the strains of old age, while his papacy was struggling with cronyism and corruption allegations in the Vatican bureaucracy.

He was to first pope to retire in almost 600 years. He has since been living in a monastery inside Vatican grounds, and his successor Pope Francis often pays tribute to him.