· Pope Francis and Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo ·
“We are brothers”. Those three words which Pope Francis addressed to Benedict XVI are enough to describe the atmosphere of their meeting on Saturday, 23 March, in the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists.
Pope Francis arrived by helicopter at 12:15 p.m. He was accompanied by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State; Mons. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household; and Mons. Alfred Xuereb. Benedict XVI met Francis at the heliport in the Villas and the two warmly embraced.
Then the Pope greeted Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano and Mr Saverio Petrillo, Director of the Pontifical Villas, before boarding the car with Benedict XVI to go to the Palace. Pope Francis “got in on the right”, Fr Lombardi said, “in the Pope’s place and Benedict XVI sat on the left”. Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Papal Household, accompanied them.
On arriving at the papal residence and stopping first in the apartment, the two then went to the chapel for a moment of prayer. Again, the Director of the Holy See Press Office said, Benedict XVI “motioned Pope Francis to the place of honour, but the latter said ‘we are brothers’” and knelt beside the Pope emeritus in the same pew. After the prayer, Pope Francis gave Benedict XVI a Marian icon, which had been given to him by Metropolitan Hilarion of the Patriarchate of Moscow. “They tell me”, he explained, “that it is Our Lady of Humility. May I tell you something: when I heard this I immediately thought of you and the many marvellous examples of humility and tenderness you gave us during your Pontificate”.
Around 12:30 p.m. their private discussion began and lasted for roughly 45 minutes. Fr Lombardi said that Benedict XVI wore “a simple white cassock without the sash and mozzetta”, which were worn instead by Pope Francis.
They had lunch in the apartment with Archbishop Gänswein and Mons. Xuereb. Benedict XVI then accompanied Pope Francis to the heliport, who returned to the Vatican around 2:50 p.m.
St. Peter’s Square
Nov. 14, 2019
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