Retired Pope Benedict XVI has endorsed Pope Francis’s mercy-filled ministry.
He did so at an unprecedented Vatican ceremony that featured a reigning Pope honouring a retired one.
It was the 65th anniversary of Benedict’s ordination as a priest.
The ceremony, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, showed continuity from Benedict to Francis, amid nostalgia from conservatives for Benedict’s tradition-minded papacy.
Francis had invited the entire Vatican Curia, or bureaucracy, to celebrate Benedict’s anniversary, and prelates turned out in force for the rare occasion of being able to greet each man in white.
While Francis presided, Benedict stole the show with an off-the-cuff, mini-theology lesson, sprinkled with Greek and Latin, which showed the sharpness of his mind at the age of 89.
Benedict thanked Francis for letting him live out his final years in the beauty of the Vatican gardens, where he said he felt “protected”.
Speaking without notes, he added: “Thank-you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which, from the first moment of your election, has struck every day of my life”.
Benedict’s vote of confidence may help quell conservative criticism of the current Pope’s loose theology
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