Pope and Pope Emeritus Exchange Christmas Greetings

Pope Francis visited Benedict’s residence at the Vatican’s Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, where the two men prayed briefly together in the chapel before meeting privately.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis praying together in the Mater Ecclesiae Chapel, Dec. 23, 2013.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis praying together in the Mater Ecclesiae Chapel, Dec. 23, 2013. (photo: CTV)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Moday evening to exchange Christmas greetings. (See video here.)

In a short statement released Dec. 23, the Vatican said the pope emeritus received the Holy Father at the entrance of his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, at 5pm.

“After a brief moment of prayer together in the chapel, a private meeting took place in the lounge of the residence that lasted around half an hour,” the statement said. “Then Pope Francis, accompanied by his personal secretaries, greeted the other members of the ‘family’ of the pope emeritus,” the Vatican added.

These included Archbishop George Gaenswein, prefect of the pontifical household and personal secretary to Benedict XVI, and the “Memores Domini,” a small group of consecrated women who assist Benedict XVI.

Pope Francis said his farewells at about 5:45pm, the Vatican said.

The Vatican covered the meeting with photos and television images. Benedict was looking well and used a cane for support while they stood in prayer.

Except for a photograph released when Benedict XVI met the Eastern patriarchs last month, this was the first time the interior of the pope emeritus’ home had been shown publicly. The sitting room and furniture were all white, and an Advent wreath decorated the coffee table.

Since Benedict's retirement in February, the two men have met only once publicly, for an official Vatican ceremony in July. They also have met privately and occasionally have spoken by telephone

Pope Francis had already sent Christmas greetings to Benedict XVI in a telephone call on Dec. 18. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said the Holy Father and Benedict had a brief conversation, during which Francis “greeted and wished a happy Christmas to his predecessor.”

Earlier this month, Archbishop Ganswein confirmed that the pope emeritus would be spending the Christmas season with his older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger. Msgr. Ratzinger will arrive at the Mater Ecclesiae residence after Christmas and will stay until the end of January.