Pope Francis came face to face with the Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, when he flew to Castel Gandolfo to meet his predecessor today.
Benedict XVI was the first pope to resign in 600 years so the meeting with his successor was unique in modern times.
The two men embraced after the new Pope emerged from his helicopter and then they travelled together by car to the papal summer residence accompanied by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Mgr Georg Gänswein. They went first to the chapel to pray, Pope Francis refusing a special place prepared for him and instead choosing to kneel beside the Pope emeritus. The rest of the visit - which lasted an hour - was taken up with a private lunch and discussions in the villa's library.
The new Pope presented his predecessor with the gift of an icon. The Vatican has released a short film of the visit but the content of their discussions has been kept private. The director of the Holy See Press office, Fr Federico Lombardi S.J. said the encounter between Pope and predecessor was a moment of "profound and elevated communion". He added that the Pope emeritus had already expressed unconditional reverence and obedience to his successor at his farewell meeting with the cardinals and would have renewed this at his meeting with his successor.
(Image: Pope Francis and Benedict XVI embrace at Castel Gandolfo; Photo: CNS)