Pope Francis meets retired Pope Benedict: 'We're Brothers'

(Photo: Ossevatore Romano handout)Pope Francis embraces Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Pope Francis met the retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the first time on Saturday since being chosen as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The meeting, described by Vatican spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi to Vatican Radio as a moment of "profound and elevated communion," took place at the papal summer villa about 40 miles south of Rome known as Castel Gandolfo.

Pope Emeritus Benedict has been living at the location since his resignation in February. The Pope and his predecessor had previously held discussions by phone, Lombardi said.

Lombardi emphasized protocol distinguishing the Pope from the Pope Emeritus, who said ahead of his retirement that he would lead a life of meditation and prayer in retirement while pledging reverence and obedience to his successor.

Pope Francis arrived at the location's heliport on early Saturday afternoon. Lombardi said the Pope Emeritus, accompanied by two assistants, hugged his predecessor in a "moving embrace."

In the car, Pope Francis sat to the right, the place reserved for the pope. The Pope emeritus sat to the left, Lombardi said.

When they arrived at the location, they settled went to their apartments and then "immediately went to the chapel for a moment of prayer."

"In the chapel, the Pope emeritus offered the place of honor to Pope Francis, but he said: "We are brothers," and wanted them to kneel together in the same pew," Lombardi said.

Half an hour after the pair arrived they began a private 45 minute meeting at Castel Gandolfo's private library, he said.

Pope Francis presented a an icon of Our Lady of Humility as a gift to the Pope emeritus.
Lombardi said the pair was expected to eat lunch together with assistants and that the Pope emeritus would accompany Pope Francis back to the heliport when the time came for the Pope to return.

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