Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis

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With thanks to the Daily Mail on Line, Reuters, Agence France Presse and the European PressPhoto Agency for the article and images on the historic meeting of two Pontiffs.

'We are brothers': Pope Francis makes history as he embraces retired predecessor Benedict in first-ever meeting of two pontiffs

Francis flew to Castel Gandolfo where the retired pope is staying. The Vatican said the pair would lunch together before Francis left today.
Both men wore the white of the papacy, with Benedict in a simple cassock

By Helen Lawson | PUBLISHED: 13:43, 23 March 2013 | UPDATED: 17:16, 23 March 2013

Pope Francis and his predecessor Benedict embraced today in a historic meeting of two popes at Castel Gandolfo.
The men met on the helipad at the papal summer retreat, before praying together in the chapel.
Benedict offered Francis the kneeler traditionally used by the pope when he prays.
But Francis refused to take it alone, saying 'We're brothers', and the two used a different kneeler in the pews and prayed together, side-by-side.

Papal embrace Francis / Benedict

Pope Francis met Benedict, pope emeritus, today at the papal retreat where the retired pontiff is staying

Two Pontiffs and an Icon

Francis presented Benedict with an icon of the Virgin Mary during their meeting

Joined in prayer

The two shared a kneeler as they prayed together in the villa's chapel, with Francis rejecting the use of the papal kneeler to share with his 'brother'

Benedict made clear that he deferred to Francis as pope while Francis made clear he considered his predecessor to be a revered brother and equal.
Today's meeting is the first between two popes in more than 600 years as the Catholic Church finds itself in the unusual position of having two alive at the same time.
Traveling from the helipad to the palazzo, Francis sat on the right-hand side of the car, the traditional place of the pope, while Benedict sat on the left.
Francis brought a gift to Benedict, an icon of the Madonna, and told him that it is known as the 'Madonna of Humility.'
'I thought of you,' Francis told him as he presented the gift.
'You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate.'
Benedict replied: 'Grazie, grazie.' 
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said he understands Benedict reiterated his pledge of obedience to the new pope, while Francis thanked Benedict for his ministry.
He said they both wore white, though Benedict was in a simple cassock and a quilted white jacket without the traditional sash and cape worn by Francis.
Walking with a cane, he looked frail compared to the robust 76-year-old Argentine.
Outside the villa, the main piazza of Castel Gandolfo was packed with well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of history as the two popes broke bread together and presumably discussed the future of the Catholic Church.
They chanted 'Francesco! Francesco.'
Benedict has been living at the papal summer villa since he officially retired on February 28, the first pope to step down in 600 years.
He has said he plans to live out his final years in prayer and remain 'hidden from the world.'
The Vatican is downplaying the lunch in keeping with Benedict's desire to remain in private and not interfere with his successor's papacy.
The men spoke privately for 45 minutes before sharing a meal with the two papal secretaries.

Two Pontiffs at prayer

The Vatican press office issued photographs of the pair praying together and exchanging gifts before they were left to speak privately

Two Pontiffs chatting

After their private chat, Francis and Benedict were joined for lunch by the two papal secretaries

There was to be no live coverage of the private meeting, only a few still photos from the official Vatican photographer.
The Vatican said Benedict was at the helipad in the villa gardens to welcome Francis, and that the two were meeting in Benedict's library and having lunch together.
Francis will then return to the Vatican later today, where crowds were gathering in St Peter's Square ahead of the Palm Sunday mass tomorrow and Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday.
Earlier, he flew to the town on an Italian Air Force helicopter in scenes reminiscent of the night Benedict officially retired from the Church.
The Vatican spokesman said they would issue a general comment about the meeting but will not be giving a detailed account.
Benedict's resignation paved the way for the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit, and the first to call himself Francis after the 13th century friar who devoted himself to the poor, nature and working for peace.
There was speculation that the two popes may discuss the big issues facing the church: the rise of secularism in the world, the drop in priestly vocations in Europe, the competition that the Catholic Church faces in Latin America and Africa from evangelical Pentecostal movements.
Benedict left a host of unfinished business on Francis' plate, including the outcome of a top-secret investigation into the leaks of papal documents last year.
Francis may want to sound Benedict out on his ideas for management changes in the Holy See administration, a priority given the dysfunctional government he has inherited.
Then over coffee, they may discuss the future of Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's trusted aide who has had the task of escorting his old pope into retirement and then returning to the Vatican to serve his successor in the initial rites of the office.Gaenswein, who wept as he and Benedict made their goodbyes to staff in the papal apartment on February 28, has appeared visibly upset and withdrawn at times as he has been by Francis' side.
The Vatican has said Francis's primary secretary will be Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, who had been the No. 2 secretary under Benedict.

Papal helicopter above St. Peters

The helicopter with Pope Francis on board flew over St Peter's Basilica earlier on its way to Castel Gandolfo, in scenes reminiscent of the night Benedict resigned

Emeritus Pope Benedict Balcony

Francis visited Benedict at Castel Gandolfo today, where the former pope blessed crowds from the balcony as he appeared in public view for the last time on the evening of February 28

Inauguration Mass

Pope Francis was inaugurated on Tuesday and led his first mass as pontiff in St Peter's Square in the Vatican

Benedict's resignation and the emeritus pope's personal choices about his future have raised the question of how the Catholic Church will deal with the unusual situation of having one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side, each of them called 'pope', each of them wearing papal white and even sharing the same aide in Gaenswein.
After a few months in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict is to return to the Vatican to live in a converted monastery in the Vatican gardens, just a short walk from St. Peter's Basilica and the shrine devoted to the Madonna where Francis went to pray on one of his first walks as pope.

Benedict's Successor - Francis I

Elected after the 5th Ballot on Wednesday, 13th March 2013

Smiling Pontiff

Pope Francis I greets his global faithful with a smile, blessing and simple greeting of 'Bona Noce'

Papal Announcement

The Vatican's web-page tribute to Pope Francis I

Papal Announcement

The Glorious and famous announcement 'We have a Pope - Francis'

Balcony Scene

With thanks to Getty images for capturing this unusual view of the man who has been elected Pope and the loneliness he and his living predecessor Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI now share.

Papal Keys

The resignation of Benedict XVIth

Papal resignation: Full text

Pope Benedict XVI has announced his resignation. Here is the full text of his statement from the Vatican:

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonisations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church.

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.

I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to steer the boat of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects.

And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff.

With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

The Wrath of God?

Lightning strikes the Vatican

A sign from God? Lighting strikes the basilica of St.Peter's dome earlier this evening during a storm that struck Rome on the same day Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation - copyright Daily Mail and EPA

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Page updated 7th March 2016