The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Breaking News

March 23, 2013

Pope Francis tells Benedict: 'We're brothers'

(Continued)

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy —

Outside the villa, the main piazza of Castel Gandolfo was packed with well-wishers bearing photos of both popes and chanting "Francesco! Francesco!" But the Vatican made clear they probably wouldn't see anything.

The Vatican downplayed the remarkable reunion in keeping with Benedict's desire to remain "hidden from the world" and not interfere with his successor's papacy. There was no live coverage by Vatican television, and only a short video and still photos were released after the fact.

The Vatican spokesman said the two spoke privately for 40-45 minutes, followed by lunch with the two papal secretaries, but no details were released.

All of which led to enormous speculation about what these two popes might have said to one another after making history together: Benedict's surprise resignation paved the way for the first pope from Latin America, the first Jesuit, and the first to call himself Francis after the 13th century friar who devoted himself to the poor, nature and working for peace.

That the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was second only to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the 2005 conclave that elected Ratzinger pope has only added to the popular imagination about how these two popes of such different style, background and priorities might get along.

Perhaps over their primo, or pasta course during Saturday's lunch, they discussed the big issues facing the church: the rise of secularism in the world, the drop in priestly vocations in Europe, the competition that the Catholic Church faces in Latin America and Africa from evangelical Pentecostal movements.

During their secondo, or second course of meat or fish, they might have gone over more pressing issues about Francis' new job: Benedict left a host of unfinished business on Francis' plate, including the outcome of a top-secret investigation into the leaks of papal documents last year that exposed corruption and mismanagement in the Vatican administration. Francis might have wanted to sound Benedict out on his ideas for management changes in the Holy See administration, a priority given the complete dysfunctional government he has inherited.

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