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Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy testifies to a churchman of scholarship and pastoral sensitivity.
Born in a devout Catholic family and baptized the day he was born, he felt one with the Church from his earliest days.As a boy, with his parents and brother and sister, he visited the Bavarian Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting, a place he returned to as pope. There, he prayed before the Black Madonna (as the smoke-charred linden wood image of Mary is called) and left at its base the ring he had received from Pope Paul VI. His intense fervor for Mary showed clearly in 2008 at Lourdes, where he said, “When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who would be more intimate to us than Christ and his holy mother, the Immaculate One?”
Two American Cardinals reflect on
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's legacy
and we recall the highlights of
of his visit to the U.S. in 2008.
CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- With a warm embrace, a helping hand, shared prayer, a long discussion and lunch together, Pope Francis spent several hours with retired Pope Benedict XVI March 23, 2013, at the papal summer villa.
Pope Francis gave Pope Benedict an icon of Mary and Jesus that the Russian Orthodox delegation to his inauguration had given him just a few days earlier.
"They told me this was Our Lady of Humility. If I may say, I thought of you," Pope Francis said. Pope Benedict, obviously moved, grasped his successor's hands.
Pope Francis told Pope Benedict, "You gave us so many examples of humility and tenderness."
The retired pope moved with much greater difficulty than he did a month ago. Walking with a cane, he took smaller and slower steps.
When the two went into the chapel of the papal villa to pray, Pope Benedict indicated that Pope Francis should take the front pew, but Pope Francis, reaching out to help his predecessor walk, said, "We're brothers," and they knelt side by side.
Traveling by helicopter from the Vatican, Pope Francis arrived shortly after noon. While the two have spoken by telephone at least twice, this was their first meeting since Pope Francis' March 13 election.
Pope Benedict, wearing a quilted white jacket over a simple white cassock -- without a short cape or white sash -- was driven to the garden heliport to greet his successor.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the two rode in the same car to the villa. Pope Francis sat on the right -- the spot reserved for the pope -- and Pope Benedict sat on the left.
After their visit to the chapel, the two spent 45 minutes talking alone, Father Lombardi said. He would not release details of the conversation and would not explain what was in the large box and two large envelopes seen on the table between the two.
Hundreds of people who were gathered in the main square outside the papal villa were left disappointed. They had hoped the two popes -- one reigning, one emeritus -- would come to the balcony together.
Father Lombardi told reporters, "Remember that the retired pope had already expressed his unconditional reverence and obedience to his successor at his farewell meeting with the cardinals, Feb. 28, and certainly in this meeting-- which was a moment of profound and elevated communion -- he will have had the opportunity to renew this act of reverence and obedience to his successor."
He also said, "Certainly Pope Francis renewed his gratitude and that of the whole church for Pope Benedict's ministry during his pontificate."
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