The last time two popes coexisted it was the era of The Great Schism- 13th to 14th Century. This event is truly historic and I hope all my students can understand this.
Behind Image of Seamless Transition, Vatican Navigates Uncharted Waters
VATICAN CITY — Sharing lunch is rarely historic, except perhaps when the two people eating are a pope and his predecessor.
On Saturday, the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI — who broke church tradition by resigning rather than dying in office — ate with Pope Francis at Castel Gandolfo, the hilltop villa where Benedict is living, while reporters waited outside for any scraps of news about how the meeting went.
Vatican officials gave no word about what the past and present leaders of the Roman Catholic Church discussed, and even rebuffed questions about what they ate. They did, however, paint a picture of a seamless transition: when Benedict offered his successor the “place of honor” during shared prayers, the Vatican said, Francis demurred, suggesting that they kneel side by side as “brothers.” Their first embrace, a spokesman said, was “wonderful.” Both wore white, the traditional color of the pope’s vestments.
But the reality of a pope and an emeritus pope living in his shadow will probably be more complicated, a fact driven home with the recent publication in an Italian gossip magazine of paparazzi-style photos of the 85-year-old Benedict strolling with his personal secretary through the private gardens of his temporary home at Castel Gandolfo.
The photographs were a vivid reminder of the uncharted territory the Vatican has entered, and the potential trouble it could bring.
Virtually every day highlights the strangeness of the circumstances and raises new questions about what the relationship between the two men will be, especially when Benedict moves back to a residence at the Vatican that is being renovated.
One Italian newspaper called the lunch on Saturday “a rehearsal for cohabitation.”
The last time two popes could even have met, other than in encounters before one of them became pope, was hundreds of years ago, the last time that one resigned.
During this transition, the new pope, the cardinals and the Vatican have gone out of their way to express affection and gratitude toward the pope emeritus. But each time they do, it does more to deepen the complexity of the relationship than to clarify it.
Francis telephoned Benedict immediately after his election on March 13, before appearing on the balcony at St. Peter’s Square, where the new pope publicly asked the crowd to join him in praying for “our bishop emeritus.” On Tuesday, after the installation ceremony on the feast day of St. Joseph, Francis called Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to wish him a happy name day.
There has been an unexpected amount of attention lavished on a man who had pledged to live out his days “hidden from the world.” As Francis’ papacy lengthens, the reasons for Benedict’s eventual seclusion inside the Vatican become clearer.
It is, Vatican experts said, a solution that not only provides a secure environment for Benedict, but also effectively avoids setting up a power center rivaling the Vatican. And it discourages any following that could coalesce around the pope emeritus in a church mindful of painful schisms that have shaken it at important moments in its history.
Now that resignation from the papacy has been resuscitated as an option after 600 years, the Vatican is no doubt concerned about setting precedents, said Alberto Melloni, the director of the John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies in Bologna.
“You couldn’t have the pope in a German convent where he could become a pole of attraction for those faithful reluctant to accept his resignation,” Mr. Melloni said.
In a few weeks, Benedict will move into a nondescript convent not far from the sumptuous apostolic palace where he lived as the leader of the church.
Already, canonical experts have raised questions about the correctness of Benedict’s adopting the title of “pope emeritus.” Writing in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit magazine, the Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, argued that a more appropriate title would be “bishop emeritus of Rome, like any other diocesan bishop who steps down.”
The Vatican has played down the novel accommodation. To have the pope emeritus “present, near, discreet” will provide a “great enrichment” for the new pope, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters recently.