As two Popes meet, a glimpse of the other Benedict

benedict francis

Although the amount of footage and the number of photographs of his meeting with Pope Francis was understandably small, it was good to see Pope Benedict XVI again.

The past month (and a bit) may have been intense for us, it must have been at least equally so for the retired Pontiff. The relative solitude of Castel Gandolfo, not to mention its location away from the heartland of the Catholic world, must have been good to him. His somewhat diminished posture, not to mention his slower walking speed, are testament to that. Perhaps Benedict has only now been able to allow himself the peace and time that he needs at almost 86. This, then, is the private Benedict, who knows when to take his time and who can do so when needed. No demands or pressures on his shoulders anymore, except the ones he promised to continue bearing when he bade us all farewell, less than a month ago: the unceasing duty of prayer for the ones he was once called to shepherd as Pope.

There is a new Pope, but we also still have our emeritus Pope. Let’s not forget him, and let’s certainly not pretend that there is some sort of division or even opposition between Benedict XVI and Francis. These days, Peter exists in twofold, in prayer and contemplation, and in practice and government.

Meeting of the Popes

Today we will see something that, we can truly say, has never happened before. A sitting Pope meeting his predecessor over lunch. At noon, Pope Francis will take his first papal helicopter flight and make his first visit to Castel Gandolfo where he will meet with emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. What the two will discuss will undoubtedly remain a guess for now (we may hope for some report on the meeting, as well as some remarkable photo opportunities, but that is by no means certain).

benedict castel gandolfo

In a way, we may see this as the final act of the true “handover”, although the meeting has no canonical weight whatsoever. Befitting Pope Francis, he will first and foremost visit Benedict out of courtesy, friendship and love. That, it would seem after ten days, is a very strong driving force behind his actions.

In a few months, Benedict XVI will return to the Vatican to take up his final residence in the Vatican gardens monastery. Will we see or hear anything about that, except for helicopter sightings and a media release? I personally doubt it it very much.

Photo credit: Osservatore Romano