News / Europe

Ex-Pope Benedict Back at Vatican to Live Out Retirement

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (l) is welcomed by Pope Francis on his return to the Vatican from the pontifical summer residence of Castel Gandolf, May 2, 2013.
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (l) is welcomed by Pope Francis on his return to the Vatican from the pontifical summer residence of Castel Gandolf, May 2, 2013.
Reuters
Benedict XVI moved back to the Vatican on Thursday, opening an uncertain era in Catholic Church history where an "emeritus pope" and a ruling pontiff will live as neighbors for the first time.

Benedict, the first pope to abdicate in 600 years, will live out his retirement in a restored convent in the Vatican gardens with a view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and just a short walk from the residence of his successor, Francis.

Benedict, 86, arrived by helicopter from Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, where he had been staying since Febreuary 28 while the convent was being restored.

Francis, 76, greeted Benedict in front of the convent, the first time they have met since March 23, when Francis visited Benedict at Castel Gandolfo and Benedict renewed a pledge of "unconditional reverence and obedience" to Francis.

A Vatican statement said the two later prayed together in the chapel of the small building, which also includes a library for the former theology professor, quarters for his aides and a guest room for his older brother, Georg, a monsignor.

"He is happy to be back at the Vatican ... where he intends to dedicate himself to the service of the Church, above all with prayer," it said.

Unlike on the day of his abdication and his March 23 meeting with Francis at Castel Gandolfo, Vatican television decided not to distribute images of Benedict's return. It gave no reason.

When the two met in March, Benedict looked exceptionally frail. But the Vatican says he suffers only from normal ailments of old age and has no serious illness.

While the presence of a reigning pope and a former one is a new situation, experts say it would only cause difficulties if Benedict tried to influence Pope Francis's decisions, something he has promised not to do.

Shortly before his resignation, Benedict said he would live out his remaining days "hidden from the world".

Still, some Church scholars say that in the event that Francis undoes some of Benedict's policies while he is still alive, the former pope could become a lightning rod for conservatives and polarize the Church.

Conservative Reference Point

"Benedict almost certainly will be a point of reference for critics of Francis, especially in conservative circles. You can easily imagine them saying, 'Benedict wouldn't have done it this way,'" said John Allen, author of several books on the Church and correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

"That criticism will circulate on blogs, in journals, and in the pews, no matter where he's physically located, and Benedict himself won't be a party to it. If anything, being behind Vatican walls will make it more difficult for the opposition to reach him and claim some sort of blessing," Allen said.

Vatican officials have said the men, both of whom wear slightly different white vestments, would likely meet occasionally and perhaps confer on Church matters but that Francis is his own man.

"On a human level, it's hard to imagine that Pope Francis would treat the retired pope as some sort of 'untouchable'. I think they can certainly spend time together and exchange views without causing any crisis in the Church," said John Thavis, author of The Vatican Diaries.

Benedict's two months away have allowed everyone to get used to the idea that he is no longer on the Vatican stage, said Father John Paul Wauck, professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

"It was a healthy hiatus during which Francis had the freedom to establish himself as the new successor of St. Peter," Wauck said, adding that he would be surprised if Benedict tried to influence Church decisions.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs