Pope travels to Castel Gandolfo for historic meeting with predecessor | News | DW | 23.03.2013
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Pope travels to Castel Gandolfo for historic meeting with predecessor

Francis has traveled to Castel Gandolfo for a meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The Vatican released few details about the unprecedented event, leading to speculation about what they would discuss.

Benedict XVI reportedly greeted the new head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, with a hug on the helipad at Castel Gandolfo, the Vatican's summer residence. The former pope has resided there since his resignation in late February.

The visit is unprecedented in recent church history, as the last papal resignation occurred over 600 years ago.

Vatican spokesperson Reverend Federico Lombardi said that few details would be released, once again raising speculation about what role Benedict would play in this papacy.

Shortly after arriving, Francis, 76, and Benedict, 85 - both clad in the traditional white cassock - prayed together in the villa chapel.

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Historic meeting between popes

Benedict reportedly offered the papal kneeler to Francis, who insisted that they share it, saying "We are brothers: We pray together."

The two were scheduled to dine in the afternoon and presumably to discuss pressing church issues. According to the Vatican spokesperson, Francis would return to the Vatican at an unspecified time on Saturday.

Pope Francis, who was inaugurated earlier this week, took the helm of a Church in crisis. Issues currently plaguing its spiritual leaders include growing secularism and an urgent need to reform Vatican bureaucracy. The Vatican has also been trying to address an ongoing child abuse scandal, which has greatly damaged the trust of the Church among its 1.2 billion members.

The last pope announced his resignation in early February, citing weakening health and age as contributing factors to his inability to continue leading the church. He has been living at Castelo Gandolfo since he stepped down and is set to return to the Vatican in coming months, where he will live in a converted monastery leading a life of prayer and contemplation.

Francis' papacy has been historic for a number of reasons. Not only is the Argentine the first non-European pontiff, but he was also the first to take the name Francis, after the 13th-century saint who led a life of poverty, focused on nature and peace.

kms/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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