Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI meet for lunch in what the Vatican said was the first such encounter in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
Francis, who was inaugurated as the new head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics on Tuesday, has made some changes since taking the helm — most notably by adopting a simpler, personal style and calling for the church to focus on serving the poor and needy.
The new pontiff was flown to Castel Gandolfo by helicopter for the lunch date.
He was greeted at the helipad by Benedict XVI, and the pair exchanged an embrace, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. They then rode in a car together to the Castel Gandolfo residence.
Both men wore simple white cassocks, but only Francis wore the white papal mantle and sash over his robe.
The new pope is Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, who takes the name Pope Francis. The announcement came on Wednesday, March 13, the first full day of the cardinals’ conclave in the Sistine Chapel.
The two then prayed together side-by-side in a chapel before meeting in a library at the residence for 45 minutes of talks ahead of lunch.
Video footage released by the Vatican after Francis had returned to Vatican City showed the two men warmly clasping hands as they greeted each other.
Benedict, who walked with the aid of a stick, looked frail and moved slowly as they entered the chapel to kneel together.
Relations between Francis and his predecessor were warm and cordial, said Lombardi. Francis presented Benedict with the gift of a painting he said reminded him of the former pontiff’s gifts to the church.
Their meeting was “a moment of profound and elevated communion,” Lombardi told Vatican Radio.
He suggested that Benedict would almost certainly have repeated the promise of obedience to the new pope that he gave in his final meeting with the cardinals before stepping down.
The presence of both a pope and a living former pontiff has raised concerns over the potential for split loyalties within the church.