VATICAN CITY — Several enthusiastic seminarians met with Benedict XVI at the Vatican Gardens on Tuesday — even though it is their exam time, they did not want to miss the chance to meet the pope emeritus.
“It lasted two minutes, but I will always remember it,” one seminarian told CNA about the meeting. He added: “The pope emeritus was so kind and asked me some personal information about my life.”
The seminarian has an ontology exam on June 18.
The seminarians come from the Italian Diocese of Faenza-Modigliana, headed by Bishop Mario Toso. The diocese has 12 seminarians.
“The seminarians really wished to meet with the pope emeritus, whom they really esteem and love,” Bishop Toso told CNA.
The bishop had forwarded the seminarians’ request to meet Benedict XVI, who jumped at the chance for a short meeting.
Each day, Benedict XVI walks through the Vatican Gardens praying the Rosary with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his personal secretary, who is also prefect of the papal household.
After his prayers Tuesday, the seminarians and Bishop Toso met with Benedict XVI for about 15 minutes. The pope emeritus then returned to his residence at Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, driven in an electric car of the Vatican Gendarmes Corps.
Bishop Toso recounted the meeting.
“After a welcome and a general address, the pope wanted to meet the seminarians one by one and asked each of them about their course of studies, as well as some personal information,” the bishop said.
The pope emeritus also chatted with Bishop Toso, who served a five-year term as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace before becoming bishop of his diocese in January.
Benedict asked the bishop if he was still collaborating with the pontifical council and then emphasized: “You worked a lot at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.”
Though the pope emeritus does not live a public life, this summer is expected to be quite busy for him. On July 1, the pope emeritus is scheduled to accompany Pope Francis to Castel Gandolfo. Pope Francis will go back and forth from the Vatican that same day to prepare for his trip to South America.
As for Benedict XVI, he will spent his time at Castel Gandolfo until July 14.
During his stay, Benedict XVI will receive honorary degrees from the Pontifical University of John Paul II and from the Academy of Music of Krakow, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow has said. The pope emeritus will take part in the public ceremony of the bestowal of the degrees at Castel Gandolfo on July 3.
Benedict XVI has yet another summer appointment: A special section of the library named after him and sponsored by the Pontifical Foundation Joseph Ratzinger will open Aug. 30 in the German College, within the Vatican Walls. Benedict XVI has confirmed he will be at the opening.
The same day, it is likely he will celebrate the Mass for the Ratzinger Schulerkreis, a group of his former students. They will gather for their annual meeting in Castel Gandolfo during the last week of August.
When staying at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI always took part in the meeting of his former students. He also made his own contributions to the discussions. Since his resignation, the members of the student circle gather as usual. On their gathering’s final day, they move to the Vatican, where Benedict XVI celebrates Mass for them.
The chairman of the Ratzinger Schulerkreis, Salvatorian Father Stephan Horn served as an assistant to the pope emeritus in the 1970s.
Father Horn confirmed in an email to CNA June 17 that “even this time, we would be pleased to have a Mass with Benedict XVI Sunday morning — if his health conditions are normal and stable — and we hope to be able to have a personal meeting with him after the Mass, as we did over the last two years.”
The Schulerkreis theme this year is “How to Speak About God Today.” The gathering’s special guest will be Msgr. Tomas Halik, a Czech priest and theologian who was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2014 for his interreligious work.