March 22, 2013, Friday — Francis Meets Benedict

“Very beautiful” embrace between Pope Francis and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo in the Vatican Gardens upon Pope Francis’ arrival.–Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.

Padre Lombardi: “An historic meeting”

Lombardi: Castel Gandolfo meeting a moment of profound communion

The following is a Vatican Radio report on the meeting still taking place between the new Pope, Francis, and the former Pope, Benedict XVI.

One note: it had been expected that Pope Francis would meet Emeritus Pope Benedict in the Palace itself, but instead Benedict came out of the palace to the Gardens, to the helicopter landing pad about a mile from the Palace, to meet Francis there.

Also note: the two men met alone for 45 minutes, before having lunch. During that meeting, they were completely alone. They are now with their secretaries at lunch, so no longer in complete privacy. Their time of complete privacy was the 45-minute meeting alone, from 12:30 pm to 1:15 pm.

(Vatican Radio) Speaking exclusively to Vatican Radio, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., reveals the details of this morning’s historic encounter between Pope Francis and Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus, an encounter he has described as a moment of profound and elevated communion:

“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. Leonardo 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 present — the bishop of Albano and the Director of the Pontifical Villas, Mr. Petrillo – they all got in the car: Pope Francis on the right, then place reserved to the Pope, 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 actually — as we mentioned earlier — the 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 Day.

“Thus, the dialogue had already started, even though the 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 [today’s] meeting — which was a moment of profound and elevated communion — will 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 his pontificate.”

Fr. Lombardi excluded the possibility of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI appearing at the balconey together to greet the public.


“Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.” –St. John of the Cross

Francis’s schedule for the next few days

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass tomorrow in St. Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday.

He will then enter into Holy Week, with a full schedule of liturgical celebrations.

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