Emeritus Pope Benedict returns to Vatican to live near Pope Francis
Benedict will live in a converted monastery behind St. Peter's Basilica
It will be the first time a retired pontiff will live near a reigning pope as Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican this week. Benedict's new retirement home will be a converted monastery tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica.
The last time he was seen by in public, March 23, Benedict appeared frailer and thinner than when he left the Vatican on his final day as pope three weeks earlier.
Always a man with a purposeful walk, Benedict shuffled tentatively that day, using his cane.
"He is a man who is not young: He is old and his strength is slowly ebbing," Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said this week. "However, there is no special illness. He is an old man who is healthy."
Benedict had been "hidden to the world" as he predicted, living at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome. He chose to leave the Vatican immediately on the last day of February, physically removing himself from the process of electing his successor and from Pope Francis' first weeks as pontiff.
Benedict will live with his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, along the four consecrated women who look after him. Inside the small building, Benedict will have a small library and a study. A guest room is available for when his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, comes to visit. "It is certainly small but well-equipped," Lombardi said.
With the announcement of his resignation, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years, questions arose of having two popes living alongside one another inside the Vatican.
Benedict fueled those concerns when he chose to be called "emeritus pope" and "Your Holiness" rather than "emeritus bishop of Rome." He also chose to continue wearing the white cassock of the papacy.
There are concerns that with two popes - one former, another current, would lead to confusion within the church as well as ordinary Catholics, making Benedict their point of reference rather than Francis.
Benedict made clear on his final day as pope that he was renouncing the job and pledged his "unconditional reverence and obedience" to his then-unknown successor, repeated in person on March 23 when Francis went to have lunch with him at Castel Gandolfo.
Francis seems unfazed by the situation unfolding. Invoking Benedict's name and work, Francis has called him on a half-dozen occasions, making clear he has no intention of ignoring the fact that there's another pope still very much alive and now living on the other side of the garden from the Vatican hotel where he lives.
Francis' gestures to Benedict during that March 23 visit were also remarkable: He refused to pray on the special papal kneeler in the small chapel of Castel Gandolfo, preferring to join Benedict on a kneeler in the pews, and referring to his predecessor as his "brother."
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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