Today Pope Francis took a helicopter to Castel Gandolfo to
meet with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict. Below is the account of the
meeting given by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi:
The helicopter landed in Castel Gandolfo heliport, at
about 12:15 and the car with the retired Pope approached the helicopter landing
site. The Holy Father alighted: he was accompanied by the Substitute [Secretary
of State] Msgr. Becciu, by Msgr. Sapienza and Msgr. Alfred Xuereb. As the Pope
alighted, the Pope Emeritus approached him and there was a moving embrace
between the two.
Then, there followed brief greetings with those other
presentthe bishop of Albano and the Director of the Pontifical Villas, Mr.
Petrillothey all got in the car: Pope Francis on the right…and the Pope
emeritus on the left. Msgr. Georg Gänswein, who is Prefect of the Papal
Household, travelled in the same car. And so, the car brought the two
protagonists of this historic meeting to the elevators and they went up to the
apartments and immediately went to the chapel for a moment of prayer.
In the chapel, the Pope emeritus offered the place of
honor to Pope Francis, but he said: “We are brothers,” and wanted them to kneel
together in the same pew. After a short moment of prayer, they then went to the
private library where, at about 12:30, the private meeting began. This is the
Library where the Pope normally receives important guests in Castel Gandolfo.
Pope Francis brought a beautiful icon as a gift for the Pope emeritus. It was
an icon of Our Lady of Humility, as a gift for Benedict XVI's great humility.
Their discussions ended at 13.15, lasting about 45 minutes. It should be noted,
with regard to the clothing, which actuallyas we mentioned earlierthe Pope
emeritus wears a simple cassock white, without a sash and without a mantella:
these are the two details which distinguish his clothing from that of Pope
Francis who wears a mantella and sash.
The two secretaries, and Msgr. Georg and Msgr. Xuereb,
are expected to eat lunch with them. Thus the totally private and confidential
meeting ended with the discussions in the Library. The Pope Emeritus will also
accompany Pope Francis to the heliport, when the time comes for his return. Let
us remember that this is not their first meeting: it is their first
face-to-face meeting, but Pope Francis had many times already addressed his
thoughts to the Pope emeritus, during his first appearance on the central
Loggia, and then two personal calls: the night of his election and St. Joseph’s
Thus, the dialogue had already started, even though the
personal, physical meeting had not yet taken place. Let us also remember that
the retired Pope had already expressed his unconditional reverence and
obedience to his successor at his farewell meeting with the Cardinals, February
28, and certainly in this [morning’s] meetingwhich was a moment of profound
and elevated communionwill have had the opportunity to renew this act of
reverence and obedience to his successor, and certainly Pope Francis renewed
his gratitude and that of the whole Church for Pope Benedict’s ministry during