Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI made one of his rare public appearances on Tuesday to be feted by his successor Pope Francis. Benedict, an 89-year-old German, stood without a cane for part of a ceremony in a Vatican hall to mark the 65th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Thank you above all to you, Holy Father: Your kindness, from the first moment of the election, in every moment of my life here, really strikes me, is a source of real inspiration for me,” Pope Emeritus Benedict said to Pope Francis on Tuesday as the two celebrated the Emeritus Pope’s anniversary of ordination.
At the end of the ceremony today in celebration of Benedict XVI’s 65th anniversary of priesthood, the Emeritus Pope expressed these words of gratitude to his successor, along with others to those present.
He spoke without a script, directing himself simply to the Holy Father and his brother cardinals. Benedict XVI is 89 years old. He was ordained on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, June 29, in 1951.
Pope Benedict, in his first public comments in the presence of his successor, did appear to have difficulty pronouncing a few words as he thanked Francis and a small group of cardinals in Italian.
In 2013 Benedict, citing health reasons, became the first pope to resign in some 600 years, ending a papacy of nearly eight years marked by a scandal centered around leaked documents that alleged corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican.
A general view of the ceremony with Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI, to celebrate Benedict’s 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican, Tuesday, June 28, 2016. Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS
He has since been living in relative isolation in a convent in the Vatican gardens and has made only a handful of brief public appearances, usually at major Church ceremonies together with Francis such as the investiture of new cardinals.
On Sunday, speaking to reporters aboard his plane while returning from a visit to Armenia, Francis was asked about reports that Benedict was a sort of parallel pope, still exercising influence. “There is only one pope,” Francis said. He praised Benedict for “protecting me, having my back, with his prayers”.
Francis, who has compared Benedict’s presence in the Vatican to having a “wise old grandfather” at home, said he had heard that when some Church officials had gone to Benedict to complain that Francis was too liberal, Benedict “sent them packing”.
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI (left) and Pope Francis during a ceremony to celebrate Benedict’s 65th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, at the Vatican, Tuesday, June 28, 2016.