Pope Francis has met his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in the first meeting of two popes in more than 600 years.
The Vatican said the two men embraced on the helipad at Castel Gandolfo where Francis landed. 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 kneeler.
Outside the villa, the main piazza of Castel Gandolfo was busy on Saturday with well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of history: two popes eating together and discussing the future of the Catholic church.
The Vatican spokesman, Rev Federico Lombardi, said he understood Benedict offered his pledge of obedience to the new pope, while Francis thanked Benedict for his ministry. He said they 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 28 February, 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”.
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 was due to return to his temporary home at the Vatican hotel later on Saturday.
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.