An archbishop who visited stricken F1 hero Michael Schumacher, said he held his hands and made a sign of the cross during an emotional visit to his home.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein has spoken of meeting with the seven-time Formula One champion at his home in Lake Geneva in the summer of 2016.
Schumacher’s face has ‘become a little fuller’, but otherwise his appearance has not changed, the archbishop said.
Archbishop Gänswein, who is a confidant of Pope Francis and emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, said he wanted to show the Ferrari ace how many people were thinking of him after his tragic skiing accident in 2013.
He told Bunte: ‘Even now, when he can no longer be the great racing driver, where he is not in the public eye. Many other people out there are still thinking of Michael Schumacher.’
‘Aware’: Archbishop Georg Gänswein said Michael Schumacher, pictured before his accident, ‘senses that loving people are around him’
Visits: Archbishop Georg Gänswein pictured with Pope Francis in 2016, has visited Schumacher at his Lake Geneva retreat
The Catholic leader said when he first met Schumacher he told him he was a secret fan and was in awe of how he drove in difficult conditions.
He said: ‘I first talked to Corinna Schumacher and her mother, then a therapist brought Michael Schumacher into the living room.
‘I introduced myself and told him that I was a secret fan, that I saw his races a lot and that I was fascinated how a man can steer such a machine at such a pace and in any weather.’
But the archbishop would not reveal exactly what was discussed with Schumacher’s family.
He told Bild: ‘You know, especially when one is ill, one needs the security of the family and protection from the public. That my visit was known, is fine. But I would never say anything private, confidential.
‘As a farewell, I have drawn a cross on his forehead with his thumb and promised him my prayer.
Michael Schumacher during the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix in 2005. In 2014 he woke up from a coma and was taken from the hospital in Grenoble to a private location
Michael Schumacher and wife Corinna in Italy in 2005. The F1 ace has not been seen in public since his devastating skiing accident in 2013
‘Praying on the spot with Michael Schumacher was too much for me, because I could not know if he would want that.
‘But one senses that he perceives encounters, that he leads an inner dialogue with himself. You can feel that the proximity of his family is important to him.’
Schumacher ‘senses that loving people are around him’ as he remains in recovery from a skiing accident nearly five years ago, the German archbishop also revealed yesterday.
‘I sat opposite him, took hold of both hands and looked at him,’ the 62-year-old Catholic leader said according to Bild.
‘He senses that loving people are around him, caring for him and, thank God, keeping the overly curious public away.’
The seven-time Formula One World Champion fell while skiing with son Mick in Meribel in the French Alps on December 29, 2013.
Schumacher, who turns 50 in January, hit the right side of his head on a rock, splitting open his helmet.
He was rushed to hospital where he underwent several life-saving surgeries and spent the next six months in a coma.
Schumacher suffered a severe head injury during a skiing accident in 2013 and spent months in a coma. He has been cared for at home by a team of medics ever since (pictured 2005)
Schumacher won 91 races in his Formula 1 career and was world champion seven times, making him one of the greatest drivers to have ever lived
In his father’s footsteps: Michael Schumacher’s racing driver son Mick, pictured with his mother Corinna, won the Formula Three championship with a race to spare last month
In April 2014, Schumacher woke up and was taken from the hospital in Grenoble to a private location, believed to be his house near Lake Geneva, where he is being cared for.
It is thought that Michael is being tended to by a team of 15 physicians who provide round-the-clock care at a cost of £115,000-per-week.
At the time of his release from hospital, his wife Corinna issued a statement asking for support in ‘our joint fight alongside Michael’, but said she would not be speaking further and asked for privacy.
The couple married in 1995 after meeting at a Ferrari party, and have two children together: Gina-Maria, 21, and Mick, 19, who races Formula Three.
Mick won the Formula Three championship with a race to spare last month, and will now make the move to Formula Two with Italian team, Prema in 2019.
Michael’s manager Sabine Kehm typically issues the rare statements on behalf of the family to the press, while his lawyers speak on his behalf in court.
Corinna married Michael in 1995 after the pair met at a Ferrari party and has been at his side ever since, including after he was injured
In comments from 2016, which have only been published this week, Khem said Schumacher ‘secretly dreamed’ of disappearing from public life.
‘Once in a long discussion Michael said to me: “You don’t need to call me for the next year, I’m disappearing.”
‘I think it was his secret dream to be able to do that some day. That’s why now I still want to protect his wishes in that I don’t let anything get out.’
In March, Kehm said that the family appreciated fans’ ’empathy’ and their understanding that they want the F1 legend’s state of health to remain a private matter.
‘What can be said is that the family really appreciates the empathy of the fans,’ Ms Kehm said. ‘The people really do see and understand (his health situation) is not to be shared in the public eye.’
This followed a statement in December 2016 in which Kehm outlined the family’s stance.
‘Michael’s health is not a public issue, and so we will continue to make no comment in that regard,’ Kehm said at the time.
‘Legally seen and in the longer term, every statement related to his health would diminish the extent of his intimate sphere.’