... Despite the fact that most media seem to enjoy placing the current pope and his predecessor in stark opposition to each other, the reality is that the two share a deeply fraternal relationship. Since the night of his election, on March 13 last year, Francis has always spoken with kindness and cited his "venerable predecessor." His very first gesture, looking out from St Peter's central loggia was to ask everyone to pray for Pope Benedict XVI. The next day he celebrated Mass with cardinals carrying the German pope's processional cross in his hands, in his encounter with the College of Cardinals he quoted him directly with words of sincere praise for his pontificate with which "he enriched and strengthened the Church with his teaching, his kindness, his guidance, his faith, his humility and gentleness that will remain a spiritual heritage for everyone. "
He mentioned him again with great friendliness and devotion during his meeting with the media, at the Mass in the parish of St. Anne, at the first Mass of his pontificate, meeting with Christian and religious leaders and in his meeting with the diplomatic corps.
Francis and Benedict’s historic meeting: “We are brothers” La Stampa "The Vatican Insider":
After briefly greeting the other people present (the Bishop of Albano and the director of the Pontifical Villas, Petrillo), they got into the car Benedict XVI had arrived in. Francis got in on the right hand side, the side the Pope always sits on and Benedict sat on the left. The Prefect of the Papal Household, Mgr. Georg Gänswein, also took the same car which took them to the lifts which took them up to the apartment. They then went to the chapel to pray.
“In the chapel, the Pope Emeritus offered Francis the seat of honour but the latter replied: “We are brothers,” and asked Ratzinger to kneel down with him at the same pew,” Fr. Lombardi said.
After a brief moment of prayer, they went to the private Library where the private meeting started at 12:30. This is the library where the Pope usually receives important guests when he is at Castel Gandolfo. Francis gave the Pope Emeritus a beautiful icon as a gift, after which their conversation began. It lasted 45 minutes and ended at 13:15.
“It should be noted that the Pope Emeritus wears a simple white cassock without a fascia (sash) or shoulder cape: it is these two garments that distinguish him from Francis who does wear a fascia and shoulder cape,” the Vatican spokesman stressed.
The two secretaries, Fr. Georg and Fr. Xuereb attended the lunch as well and the private and confidential meeting concluded with a conversation in the Library.
The Holy Father also brought a gift for his predecessor, an icon of Our Lady of Humility, as a gift for Benedict XVI's great humility. The two men then spent an estimated 45 minutes in private conversation in the Library before emerging to lunch with two secretaries.
The intensely reserved nature of the encounter confirms what Benedict XVI had confided to the priests of Rome in his last meeting with them as Pope on February 14th when he said: “Although I am retiring now, I will always be close in prayer, and you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden away from the world".
- Ratzinger-Bergoglio lunch:"A constructive meeting. It would be wrong to draw comparisons" Antonio Spadaro, the director of the Company of Jesus’ journal Civilta Cattolica gives an account of today’s face-to-face meeting between Francis and Benedict XVI. La Stampa 03/23/13.
- Unprecedented image in two thousand years of Catholic history, by Andrea Tornielli. La Stampa "The Vatican Insider" 03/24/13:
Gossip over continuity and break based on mozzettas, ermine furs and red shoes is threatening to overshadow the reality of true continuity between Benedict XVI and Francis. Theirs is a continuity that finds proof in several passages, in small deeds and stresses that were seen and heard during the first few days of this pontificate: the humility shown by both, their shared knowledge that the Church is ultimately led by God, their sense of non protagonism. After the election Benedict XVI said that “ everywhere the pope goes he shines the light of Christ, not his own”, Francis too, when talking to journalists, remarked that the protagonist is Christ not the pope.
Another element that the two popes have in common is their awareness of the need to safeguard the environment and all creation, of which mankind is the apex; in fact Benedict XVI had earned the nickname of “Green pope”; not to mention the concern over career-ambition and the “ spiritual worldliness” within the Church. Only people who have forgotten Benedict XVI’s profound homilies on these matters during consistories and during the ceremonies to appoint bishops might think that there is no harmony between the two popes. Only people who do not know Ratzinger’s writings on liturgy might believe that his philosophy would centre around lace, ermine fur and evermore sophisticated parameters rather than the simple encounter with the mystery of Christ. Some time ago, during a TV show, Bergoglio said that mass is not “ a gathering of friends who come to pray and eat bread and wine… To what great extent a priest needs to prepare to celebrate the holy communion !”
The exceptional footage shot yesterday at Castel Gandolfo shows the pope Emeritus pointing out to his successor the papal kneeling stool and then trying to stand aside, but being prevented from doing so by Francis who took him by the hand to pray side by side because in his eyes they are “brothers”. Those who saw the footage perfectly understand the mutual consideration and harmony that exists between these two men. Those who heard Francis’ voice as he gave his predecessor the picture of Our Lady of Humility and said “I thought of you because during your pontificate -- you gave us many examples of tenderness and humility" will not hesitate in recognizing humility as one of the common denominators between the two popes.
- Dr. Robert Moynihan comments further on the significance of Pope Francis' gift to Benedict of the icon of the Madonna of Humility:
... a few minutes ago I received an unexpected email from Metropolitan Hilarion, 46, an old friend who is also the “Foreign Minister” (the term isn’t quite accurate, but it suggests the importance of his work and position) of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate, so, the right-hand of Patriarch Kirill. He wrote:
“Pope Francis presented to Pope emeritus Benedict the icon which had been presented to Pope Francis by Metropolitan Hilarion on behalf of Patriarch Kirill [the head of the Russian Orthodox Church] after the private audience [with the new Pope] on 20 March. Отправлено с iPhone [Sent from iPhone]“
So the icon was the Russian icon Hilarion gave to Francis three days ago!
I wrote back: “Amazing. Are you pleased, or upset?”
I added: “It is reported here: ‘They spent 45 minutes talking alone. Pope Francis gave Pope Benedict an icon of Our Lady of Humility, saying that when he received it, he immediately thought of giving it to Pope Benedict.’”
Hilarion wrote back: “Very pleased and touched.”
... at the moment Pope Francis and Pope Benedict first met, at the first meeting ever of the “two Popes” of the Roman Catholic Church, there was a “Russian connection” and an “Orthodox connection” which was present, which was between them, joining them: an image of the Virgin Mary, the Madonna of Humility, brought from Russia and given to Pope Francis in Rome on March 20, an image which immediately struck Pope Francis when he received it as reminding him of Benedict, an image which he decided to bring with him today, to give to Emeritus Pope Benedict, on the occasion of the unprecedented, historic occasion, of their first meeting.