Pope Francis met with Benedict XVI first time after his selection

- Pope Francis met with Benedict XVI on Saturday for the first time since his selection, an historic visit that took place in a fraternal atmosphere.

“We are brothers,” Pope Francis told his predecessor before praying side-by-side with him at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.

The March 23 encounter marked the first face-to-face meeting between the two since the March 13 election of the new Pope. The encounter is a unique moment in the history of the Church, which has not had a papal resignation in centuries.

Holy See Press Office director Father Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio about the meeting.

He said there was “a moving embrace between the two” as they first met on the grounds of the Pontifical Villas.

Both wore a simple white cassock. Benedict XVI toted a white jacket against the cool mountain air. Francis was dressed in the white sash and cape of the pontiff.

A small entourage of at least six accompanied the two for the short drive from the heliport to the residence at Castel Gandolfo Benedict XVI has called home since his resignation on Feb. 28. Those present included Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary to Benedict XVI who remains prefect of the pontifical household.

Upon arrival, the Pope and his predecessor first prayed together in the chapel and then retired to the papal library. There, they spoke for the better part of an hour.

Fr. Lombardi was unable to share any of the content of their confidential discussions. He did discuss Pope Francis’ present to Benedict XVI. Pope Francis brought an icon of Our Lady of Humility “as a gift for Benedict XVI’s great humility,” the Vatican spokesman said.

“You gave us a great example of humility and tenderness,” Pope Francis told his predecessor, according to the recording of the event made by Vatican Television Center.

World media have put much emphasis on Pope Francis’ evident simplicity and humility in his first days. Some reports insinuate a contrast from the last pontificate, but Benedict XVI too is often described as “meek” by those who know him.

Though this was their first meeting in person, the two had already been in contact since the Argentinean Pope’s election on March 13. Francis called him directly on the night of his election and again for the Pope’s name day, the March 19 Feast of St. Joseph.

Before Benedict XVI stepped down on Feb. 28, he had declared to the College of Cardinal s his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his eventual successor.

Fr. Lombardi said the Saturday meeting was “a moment of profound and elevated communion.”

He said Benedict XVI “had the opportunity to renew this act of reverence and obedience to his successor, and certainly Pope Francis renewed his gratitude and that of the whole Church for Pope Benedict ’s ministry during his pontificate.”


Pope Francis I meeting Benedict XVI

Vatican City, Mar 15, 2013 - The press secretary for the Vatican Father Thomas Rosica said that, there was a phone call between the two of them, and I think it would have been a very warm phone call. The pope himself, Pope Francis, told us that that happened, and it's a great way to start off the pontificate. We heard from the balcony, one of the first things that Pope Francis said was, "Join me, please, in saying some prayers of Thanksgiving for him." He invited this massive crowd to pray the "Our Father" and the "Hail Mary" for his predecessor, Pope Benedict .

Also he added that it's likely they both will meet tomorrow or the next day.

Later the Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi confirmed that Pope Francis has postponed his plan to visit Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo this Thursday.

Pope Francis has a set schedule before his installation on March 19.

16 Saturday
Paul VI Audience Hall, at 11:00
Audience to the media representatives

17 - 5th Sunday of Lent
Saint Peter's Square, at 12:00

19 Tuesday
Saint Peter's Square, at 9:30
Celebration of Holy Mass for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry

20 Wednesday
Audience to the Fraternal Delegates

Also, Pope Francis is expected to soon choose the Vatican's new secretary of state.

Pope Benedict XVI resignation announcement

The Pope himself announces: "I have reached the certainty that my strength, advanced age, are no longer appropriate to exercise the Petrine ministry properly." The Pontiff has decided that he will resign on February 28.

Text of the speech that Pope himself announced the move in Latin, during the consistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinal s on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013


Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the beatification mass of Pope John Paul II

VATICAN CITY, Apr 28, 2011 - As the countdown continued for the beatification of Pope John Paul II, church and civil authorities put the finishing touches on logistical plans to handle potentially massive crowds at the main events in Rome.

Meanwhile, Vatican officials were heartened at the massive response to online projects designed to make the beatification a universal experience.

Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the beatification Mass in St. Peter's Square May 1. Because no tickets are being handed out for the liturgy, no one really knows how many people to expect. Estimates range from 300,000 to 1.5 million, and crowd control barriers will be set up for blocks around the Vatican.

Immediately after Mass, the faithful can pray before Pope John Paul's unopened casket, which will be set in front of the main altar in St. Peter's Basilica. The veneration is expected to continue most of the day.

A large crowd is also expected for the prayer vigil April 30 at the site of Rome's ancient Circus Maximus racetrack, where Pope Benedict will make a video appearance. Rome church officials have organized that event to underline the strong connection between the Polish pope and the Diocese of Rome.

The French nun whose healing was accepted as the miracle needed for Pope John Paul's beatification will share her story with pilgrims at the prayer vigil. Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a member of the Little Sisters of the Catholic Motherhood, had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and believes she was cured in 2005 through the intercession of the late pope.

The morning after the beatification, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, will celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter's Square. That liturgy, too, is expected to attract tens of thousands of people.

While the size of the crowds remained a mystery, Vatican officials said their online initiatives had already taken the beatification to groups and individuals around the world. For example, the Vatican's special beatification Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vatican.johnpaul2 has had more than 6 million visits and has gained nearly 50,000 followers.

Similar pages have been opened at the www.pope2you.net site aimed at younger audiences and on the Vatican's YouTube channel. They offer photos, tributes, key quotes and video highlights of Pope John Paul's pontificate. The beatification events will be live-streamed at many of the sites, ensuring worldwide participation.

"Six years have passed since John Paul's funeral, and the world of communications has changed greatly, with many more online opportunities available to the church," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, who was coordinating several of the Internet efforts.

"Moreover, John Paul II was much loved by the younger generations who use the new media. He is a figure who adapts well to the Web, because he left us with a wealth of images and spoken words that one is happy to see and listen to again in their original context," he said.

The Diocese of Rome has also launched a multilingual beatification website that offers the diocesan-approved prayer asking for graces of Pope John Paul in 31 languages, including Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Swahili.

The beatification date was chosen carefully. May 1 is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day with special significance for Pope John Paul, who made it a church-wide feast day to be celebrated a week after Easter. The pope died April 2, 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday.

May 1 is also Europe's "labor day" holiday, which meant the beatification events would not disrupt the normal business of Rome. Many Romans were planning to leave the city for the weekend, although church leaders said Italians would still be the biggest national group attending the beatification. Poles were expected to be the second-largest group, followed by pilgrims from Spain and the United States.

The Vatican has used the run-up to the beatification as a teaching moment about the sainthood process, emphasizing that Pope John Paul will be declared "blessed" not for his achievements as pope but for the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.

Church officials have announced that in the Diocese of Rome, where Pope John Paul served as bishop, and in all the dioceses of his native Poland, his feast day is to be inserted automatically into the annual calendar. Oct. 22 was chosen as the day to remember him because it is the anniversary of the liturgical inauguration of his papacy in 1978.

Other places can petition the Vatican to insert the Oct. 22 feast day into their liturgical calendar. Likewise, parishes and churches can be named after "Blessed Pope John Paul" in Rome and Poland, with other requests considered on a case-by-case basis.

Throughout the universal church, Catholics will have a year to celebrate a Mass in thanksgiving for the pope's beatification.

The Vatican has published the text of the opening prayer -- formally the "collect" -- for his feast day Mass. The English text reads: "O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II should preside as pope over your universal church, grant, we pray, that, instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns."

Following the beatification ceremonies, Pope John Paul's casket will be relocated to the Chapel of St. Sebastian in the upper level of St. Peter's Basilica. He had been buried in the grotto beneath St. Peter's, but the new resting place is more easily accessible to the steady stream of pilgrims who come to see the pope's tomb.

Not long after Pope John Paul's death, Pope Benedict set him on the fast track to beatification by waiving the normal five-year waiting period for the introduction of his sainthood cause. Even so, church experts needed years to review the massive amount of evidence regarding the late pope, including thousands of pages of writings and speeches.

More than 120 witnesses were interviewed, and studies were conducted on Pope John Paul's ministry, the way he handled suffering and how he faced his death. The Vatican took special care evaluating the reported miracle in France, and Vatican officials emphasized that no procedural shortcuts were taken. The process was completed relatively quickly: six years and one month from death to beatification is a modern record in the church.

Pope Benedict XVI prayed for freedom, justice and peace in Easter mass

VATICAN CITY, Apr 25, 2011 -   In an Easter blessing to the world, Pope Benedict XVI prayed that Christ's resurrection may open paths of "freedom, justice and peace" for troubled populations of the Middle East and Africa.

The pope urged an end to violence in Libya and Ivory Coast, assistance to refugees flooding out of North Africa and consolation for the victims of the Japanese earthquake. He prayed for those persecuted for their Christian faith, and praised their courage.

He spoke from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica April 24 in his blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city of Rome and to the world), after celebrating Mass for nearly 100,000 people in St. Peter's Square. Broadcast to many countries and live-streamed on the Internet, it was the last major event on the 84-year-old pontiff's heavy Holy Week schedule.

Pope Benedict said the resurrection of Christ must not be viewed as "the fruit of speculation or mystical experience." It happened in a precise moment and marked history forever, giving human events new strength, new hope and new meaning, he said.

"The entire cosmos is rejoicing today," and every person open to God has reason to be glad, he said.

But the joy of Easter contrasts with "the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence," the pope said.

He prayed that "the splendor of Christ reach the peoples of the Middle East, so that the light of peace and of human dignity may overcome the darkness of division, hate and violence." In Libya, he said, diplomacy and violence need to take the place of armed fighting, and the suffering must have access to humanitarian aid.

The pope alluded to the civil unrest that has spread throughout northern Africa and the Middle East, encouraging all citizens there, especially young people, to work for a society where poverty is defeated and where "every political choice is inspired by respect for the human person." The refugees who have fled the conflicts deserve a generous response by other populations, he added.

The pope said the many forms of suffering in "this wounded world" make the Easter message all the more meaningful.

"In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us," he said. He then offered Easter greetings in 65 languages, including Chinese, Hindi and Swahili.

The pope arrived at the Easter liturgy in an open jeep, riding through a crowd that overflowed the square into adjacent streets. Many of the pilgrims were Poles who had already arrived in Rome for the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II.

As clouds gave way to sunshine, the pope celebrated Mass on an altar surrounded by flower gardens of yellow narcissus, cream-colored roses and blue delphiniums -- all donated and shipped to Rome by Dutch florists.

After the Gospel reading, an Orthodox choir sang a hymn of psalms of the Byzantine liturgical tradition, marking the fact that the Catholic and Orthodox celebration of Easter fell on the same day this year.

In a lengthy Easter vigil Mass in St. Peter's Basilica the night before, the pope baptized and confirmed six adults from Albania, China, Peru, Russia, Singapore and Switzerland. He poured holy water from a golden shell over each catechumen's head, and later accepted offertory gifts from the newly baptized.

In a sermon, he analyzed why the Christian's sense of environmental responsibility is directly connected to the core beliefs of the faith.

"We relate to God the creator, and so we have a responsibility for creation," he said. "Only because God created everything can he give us life and direct our lives."

The trajectory of salvation history, which reaches a summit with Christ's resurrection, reaches all the way back to creation, he said. For the Christian, he said, the account of creation is not about the scientific process involved, but something deeper: it says that the source of everything is not pure chance, but "creative reason, love and freedom."

The pope rejected an evolutionary account that excludes a divine purpose.

"It is not the case that the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it," he said.

"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then life would make no sense," he said. "Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."

The pope said Easter was a good time for Christians to remind themselves that the faith embraces everything about the human being, from his origins to his eternal destiny.

"Life in the church's faith involves more than a set of feelings and sentiments and perhaps moral obligations," he said.

On Good Friday, the pope presided over a nighttime Way of the Cross liturgy at Rome's Colosseum, where tradition holds that early Christians were put to death. Kneeling on a platform on a hillside facing the ancient amphitheater, the pope opened the ceremony with a prayer that drew attention to the constant struggle between good and evil in human history.

He appeared to refer to the priestly sex abuse scandal when he spoke of the "hour of darkness" when "an emptiness of meaning and values nullifies the work of education, and the disorder of the heart disfigures the innocence of the small and the weak."

The meditations for the 14 Stations of the Cross were written this year by an Augustinian nun, Mother Maria Rita Piccione. The texts encouraged Christians to develop the ability to listen to the subtle voice of God that speaks through the human conscience, and not to ignore the needs of the poor and suffering in their midst.

In a closing talk, the pope said that reliving the drama of Christ's crucifixion demonstrates that the cross is not a triumphal symbol but rather the sign of "God's immense love" for humanity.

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