CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy —
Over coffee, they might have discussed future of Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's trusted aide who has had the difficult task of escorting his old pope into retirement and then returning to the Vatican to serve his successor in the initial rites of the office.
Gaenswein, who wept as he and Benedict made their final goodbyes to staff in the papal apartment on Feb. 28, has appeared visibly upset and withdrawn at times as he has been by Francis' side. The Vatican has said Francis' primary secretary will be Monsignor Alfred Xuereb, who had been the No. 2 secretary under Benedict.
Both Xuereb and Gaenswein were present for lunch. Start to finish, the meeting lasted about 2 ½ hours, with Benedict escorting Francis back to the helipad for the ride back to the Vatican.
Benedict's resignation — and his choices about his future — have raised the not-insignificant question of how the Catholic Church will deal with the novel situation of having one reigning and one retired pope living side-by-side, each of them called "pope," each of them wearing papal white and even sharing the same aide in Gaenswein.
Before Benedict announced his decision to be known as "emeritus pope," one of the Vatican's leading canon lawyers, the Jesuit Rev. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, penned an article suggesting that such a title would be inappropriate for Benedict since in renouncing the papacy he had "lost all the power of primacy" conferred on him by his election as pope.
The alternate title — which Vatican officials had suggested would be likely be chosen — was that of "emeritus bishop of Rome," since bishops routinely retire and are known as "emeritus bishops."
But Benedict opted instead for "emeritus pope," ''Your Holiness" and also chose to keep wearing the white cassock of the papacy, leading to questions about both his own influence on the future pontiff and whether Catholics more favorable to his traditional style might try to undermine his successor's authority and agenda by keeping their allegiance to the old pope.