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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid