It was first of such incident in the last 600 years when Pope Francis went to the southern part of Rome to have a tete-a-tete with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. It was an initiative of the newly elected Pope Francis who took a helicopter ride to go the summer residence of the Pope Emeritus which is located inside Gandolfo Castle. He has made it his home since abdicating the title on 28th of February.
In the photos that have been released by the Vatican, the two clergymen can be seen embracing each other, dressed in similar white robes and small white skull caps. In the photos, Pope Francis can be seen wearing cassock and a cape over it. There is also a white sash on his waist. These happen to be the only little differences in the attires of the two men held in high esteem by the Catholics all over the world. Benedict, who is reportedly feeling the chills, was seen wearing a thick vest over the cassock.
The two elderly men went to the residence of the ex Pope in a car and prayed together. Before having lunch together that was also attended by their secretaries, the two Popes had a long talk with each other in complete privacy for nearly 45 minutes. Later, Father Federico Lombardi, who is the official spokesman of the Vatican, described the visit as a family affair.
When Pope Benedict tried to offer a place of honor while praying to Pope Francis, he declined the offer saying that the two of them were like brothers who would pray together. Photos reveal that the two clergymen prayed together at the same church bench.
When Lombardi was asked questions about Benedict relinquishing Papal crown instead of ruling till death, he said that it was only natural and very normal as Pope Benedict felt he had grown too old to face the rigors of the duty. Before he gave up his crown, Pope Benedict expressed his desire to pray in privacy and remain hidden from the world during his last days.
Benedict had said he would unconditionally support the new Pope and this meeting gave him an opportunity to affirm his pledge publically. Lombardi declined to comment on the topic of conversation between the two men but it is believed that the talk centred on administration inside the Vatican.
However, Pope Benedict is believed to have handed over his report over the leaks scandal, called Vatileaks. A butler inside the Vatican had leaked some papal documents to media after stealing them from the desk of the Pope. Though the accused butler was sentenced to 18 months in prison, Pope Benedict pardoned him on Last Christmas.
Though the meeting of the two Popes has been welcomed by everyone, there are some who have expressed their concern. Hans Kung, who is a Swiss Theologian, is of the view that Pope Benedict would become a shadow of the Pope and influence his decisions. If Francis tries to change some of Benedict’s policies, he could polarize the church.