Pope Francis has travelled to Castel Gandolfo to have lunch with his predecessor Benedict XVI in an historic meeting.
The Vatican said the two Popes embraced on the helipad. In the chapel where they prayed together, Benedict offered Francis the traditional kneeler used by the Pope. Francis refused to take it alone, saying “We’re brothers”, and the two prayed together on the same one.
Outside the villa, the main piazza of Castel Gandolfo was packed with well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of history.
Vatican spokesman Rev Federico Lombardi said Benedict offered his pledge of obedience to the new Pope, while Francis thanked Benedict for his ministry.
Both wore white, though Benedict was in a simple cassock without the traditional sash and cape worn by Francis.
Benedict has been living at the papal summer villa since he resigned on February 28, the first Pope to step down in 600 years. He has said he plans to live out his final years in prayer and remain “hidden from the world”.
Only a few still photos from the official Vatican photographer were allowed; no live coverage of the private meeting was permitted.
The Vatican said Benedict was at the helipad in the villa gardens to welcome Francis, and that the two were meeting in Benedict’s library and having lunch together. Francis will then return to his makeshift home at the Vatican hotel at an unspecified time later in the day.
The Vatican spokesman promised a general comment about the meeting, but no detailed statement.
After a few months in Castel Gandolfo, Benedict is to return to the Vatican to live in a converted monastery in the Vatican gardens, just a short walk from St Peter’s Basilica and the shrine devoted to the Madonna where Francis went to pray on one of his first walks as Pope.