Today at Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis paid a visit to his predecessor, Pope-Emeritus Benedict. The two greeted one another warmly, prayed together in the chapel, then enjoyed a long private conversation before sharing lunch.
Benedict seemed frail, clutching his cane as he met his successor near the helicopter. Together, they walked to the Chapel for a brief prayer.
A report by Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, after the encounter showed how each had demonstrated his humility: Benedict XVI invited Pope Francis to take the pew reserved to the Holy Father, but Pope Francis responded, “We are brothers” and insisted that the two kneel together in prayer at the same pew.
Then the Pope and Pope-Emeritus met privately in the Library, talking quietly for about 45 minutes before heading to lunch with their priest-secretaries, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, who is Prefect of the Papal Household, and Msgr. Xuereb.
Of course, this was not their first conversation, although it was the first face-to-face meeting. Pope Francis has spoken to Benedict twice by telephone, and has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for Benedict’s wise counsel and his faithful service to the Church. And Pope Emeritus Benedict had expressed his unconditional reverence and obedience to his successor at his farewell meeting with the Cardinals on February 28.