Lifestyle & Belief

Pope Francis tells Benedict "We're brothers" during historic lunch together


Pope Francis arrives in a helicopter for a meeting with his predecessor Benedict XVI at the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo on March 23, 2013.

In what may be an encounter unprecedented in the Catholic Church's history, the new pope met for a private lunch Saturday with the former pope, Pope Benedict.

The two men, both dressed in white, smiled and embraced warmly on the helipad in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome where Benedict has been living since he resigned last month, AP reported.

They then went to the chapel inside the palazzo where Pope Francis lived up to its reputation as a humble man by refusing to go to the front to the papal kneeler to pray alone. 

"No, we are brothers," Francis told Benedict, according to the Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi.

So the two prayed side-by-side on a different kneeler in the pews.

Francis also brought a gift to Benedict, an icon of the Madonna, the "Madonna of Humility", and told you: "You gave us so many signs of humility and gentleness in your pontificate." 

Lombardi said Benedict offered his pledge of obedience to the new pope, while Francis thanked Benedict for his ministry, the London Mirror reported.

The pair then enjoyed a private lunch.

Vatican commentators said yesterday's lunch was a rare occasion, possibly unprecedented, because a new pope usually takes the reins only following the death of his predecessor, reports CNN.

Pope Francis flew by helicopter Saturday morning to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills where Pope Benedict XVI has been living since he resigned February 28, becoming the first pope to step down in 600 years, Fox News reported.

While Pope Francis wanted the lunch to be low-key, it did not stop crowds gathering in the central square of the hill town, south of Rome to see history unfolding, AP reported. 

The Vatican would not allow any live coverage of the private meeting, issuing a few still photos from the official Vatican photographer and details from vatican spokesman. 

Vatican observers told CNN they believe one item on the conversation agenda will be the contents of a 300-page report presented by three cardinals to Benedict, claiming corruption within the Vatican hierarchy.