On Saturday, Pope Francis traveled to Castel Gandolfo to meet with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The historical meeting, a first in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, was described by Vatican Press Director Fr. Federico Lombardi as “a moment of profound and elevated communion.
The helicopter carrying the Holy Father landed at the Castel Gandolfo heliport in the early afternoon where Benedict XVI was awaiting his arrival. Upon stepping off the helicopter, Pope Francis immediately approached the Roman Pontiff Emeritus and embraced him. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household was among those present at the meeting.
From the heliport, Francis and Benedict XVI travelled to the Apostolic Palace, where they went to pray at the chapel there dedicated to Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Upon entering the chapel, Benedict XVI offered Pope Francis the place of honor to pray in the chapel. In a touching moment, Pope Francis grabbed Benedict XVI’s hand saying, “We are brothers” and preferred that they kneel together in the same pew.
After a brief moment of prayer, the Pope and Pope Emeritus went to the library where they were to hold their private meeting. Pope Francis brought an icon as a gift for the Pope Emeritus: an icon of Our Lady of Humility. “If you permit me to say,” Pope Francis said to Benedict as he presented the icon, “I thought of you, of your humility during your pontificate.” Touched by the gesture, Benedict grabbed the Pontiff’s hand and thanked him.
Shortly after, Pope Francis and Benedict XVI sat down and began their private discussions, which lasted for 45 minutes.
According to a communique released by the Holy See Press Office, that the occasion was not the first meeting between the two.
“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. Josephs Day,” the communique stated.
The communique also stated that the retired Pontiff had already expressed his unconditional reverence and obedience to his successor during his farewell meeting with the Cardinals on February 28th.
“Pope Francis renewed his gratitude and that of the whole Church for Pope Benedicts ministry during his pontificate,” the communique stated.