Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI got together for the first time on Saturday, praying side by side before having lunch in a historic meeting.
Pope Francis flew to Benedict’s Castel Gandolfo residence by helicopter on Saturday. Benedict has lived in the flat in the Alban Hills outside of Rome since his resignation on February 28. He is the first pope to retire in 600 years.
According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, Francis and Benedict embraced on the helipad, and then absconded to a private chapel to pray.
Francis insisted that they pray at the altar together, telling Benedict “We’re brothers,” as the two knelt together. They followed prayer with a 40 minute conversation in the library before going to lunch together. Francis also have Benedict a gift: An icon of the Virgin Mary.
“When I saw this picture of the Madonna of Humility, my thoughts turned immediately to you,” Francis told Benedict of the gift.
When we say that the meeting of the two popes is historical, we really mean that this type of thing has literally never happened before. Presidents and other figureheads do it all the time, but popes tend to live out the rest of their lives in office. The last pope to retire was Celestine V in 1294. His successor, Pope Boniface VIII, annulled all of his official acts, and had him immediately imprisoned, where he died after nine months.
Needless to say, the last time two popes met, it didn’t end so well.
Though it’s not known what the two popes talked about during their private 40 minute conversation, The Associated Press speculated that the conversation served to bridge the gap between the rule of both men. They might have discussed the issues currently facing the church,. like the rise of secularism and the drop in priesthood vocation.
Benedict left a lot of unfinished business as pope, so part of the conversation might have also turned to dealing with the outcome of the rumored top-secret investigation into papal document leaks last year.
What do you think Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict talked about?