Well the time has come for the two to meet which marks a historic milestone that has not happened in 600 years and could be seen by some to be a problematic melding of two papacies. The historic meeting took place at Castel Gandolfo Saturday when Pope Francis traveled from the Vatican to south Rome to have lunch with Benedict XVI, his predecessor. The two men in white embraced with the pope telling a retiring one “We are brothers” and insist they pray side by side for the future of the Catholic Church reports the Associated Press. The year for the Catholic Church has stated with a bang with Benedict’s resignation and the election of the first Latin American pope leading to the meeting on Saturday with the image of the papal past embracing the papal future, praying and breaking bread together. Benedict, 85, has been living in the papal retreat since Feb. 28 when he became the first to resign in 600 years, while Francis, 76, made it clear he would not let Benedict hide from the world as he wanted and made it clear he would visit him. Benedict greeted Francis, wearing a white quilted jacket over his white cassock, on the helipad of the Castel Gandolfo gardens where they embraced and clasped hands making it clear that Francis is the new pope and Francis made it clear Benedict is a brother and equal. After leaving the helipad, Benedict gave Francis the right side of the car symbolizing the traditional place of the pope and Benedict sat on the left on their way to the palazzo to pray where Benedict insisted that Francis use the papal kneeler, but Francis refused saying “We are brothers” then they kneeled side by side. Francis also brought an icon of the Madonna for Benedict saying, “They told me it’s the Madonna of Humility. Let me say one thing: When they told me that, I immediately thought of you, at the many marvelous examples of humility and gentleness that you gave us during your pontificate.” With a simple reply from Benedict of “Grazie, grazie.” Well wishers outside the main piazza chanted “Francesco! Francesco!” outside the villa but the crowd left after Francis’ helicopter left 2.5 hours later, according to the Associated Press, without either pope appearing at the balcony.
The Vatican respected the wished of Benedict to stay out of the spotlight so no to interfere with his successor’s papacy with no live Vatican television coverage and only a short video and still photo released after the meeting, while no details were given about what the two discussed many are speculating. Some speculations about what the men discussed include the rise of secularism in the world, the decrease in priesthood in Europe and the competition the Catholic Church faces in Latin America and Africa from evangelical Pentecostal movements. Benedict may have discussed pressing issues the new pope will have to deal with including unfinished business from the Benedict’s papacy such as the Vatileak documents last year that exposed corruption and mismanagement in Vatican administration and ideas on how to make management changes in the Holy See administration. Further questions have to be asked about the future of the Catholic Church and how they will deal with two living popes as one has resigned and the other reigning side by side. As the Vatican’s leading canon lawyer, Jesuit Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, explained in an article it would be inappropriate to call Benedict “emeritus pope” as he lost all of his power of primacy when he renounced the papacy, therefore the Vatican has originally said he would be known as “emeritus bishop of Rome” but Benedict chose to keep wearing the white cassock of the papacy and being called “emeritus pope.” The main question now for the Vatican is will Benedict influence the future pontiff and whether Catholics will favor the traditional style undermining his successor’s authority and agenda through allegiance to the old pope. This should not be a concern since in his last meeting with cardinals on Feb.28, Benedict pledge his obedience to the then unknown future pope. In their meeting on Saturday, neither address each other in formal titles but as friends.
The two are men are very different in their approach and style to the papacy. The Argentine born Francis has already made waves with his no papal regalia, simple black shoes, and paying his own hotel bill sending a message to the people that the pope’s job is to protect the poor. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires, the man now known as pope would celebrate Mass with prostitutes and drug addicts as his plan for Holy Thursday Mass this week will be to celebrate at a juvenile detention center washing the feet of 12 inmates echoing the humility of Jesus. The German born Benedict comes from the academic world as one of the leading theologian who spent more than 30 years in the Vatican where he was first the chief doctrinal watchdog and then pope. His main concern during his papacy was to remind people of their faith and bring back the traditions of the Catholic Church as well as the brocaded style of the papacy. his Holy Thursday included the foot washing of clerics at the St. John Lateran Basilica. It was best said by Civilta Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit magazine, whose article are Vatican approved said that, “They are two figures of the highest spirituality, whose relationship with life is completely anchored in God. This radicalness is shown in Pope Benedict’s shy and kind bearing, and in Pope Francis it is revealed by his immediate sweetness and spontaneity.”