The Vatican became home to two Popes on Thursday, May 2 for the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church when Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI moved back to the city state in the wake of his resignation.
Benedict has been living in Castel Gandolfo, the summer papal residence outside Rome since his shock resignation at the end of February.
But it was always a temporary arrangement and on Thursday the German-born former pontiff moved into new retirement home within the Vatican gardens.
The 86-year-old ex-Pope was picked up by helicopter from the ground of Castel Gandolfo, which perches on the rim of a volcanic crater lake, and flown to the Vatican, a 15 minute flight away.
Pope Francis met him at the door of the former monastery which is his new home. The current pontiff has made repeated gestures of friendship towards Benedict, visiting him in Castel Gandolfo, calling him on his birthday and holding mass for him.
He is taking up residence in a former convent in the Vatican’s extensive gardens. Situated on a hill within the city state, it commands views of St. Peter’s Basilica, the rooftops of Rome and the Apennine Mountains.
It is a 10 minute walk from Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican residence where Pope Francis has chosen to live since his election, having rejected the option of living in the much larger and more lavish papal apartments.
The two popes will be dressed very similarly- as Pope Emeritus, Benedict wears a white cassock, while Francis wears a white cassock with a short cape around his shoulders.
Vatican observers have speculated that the presence of a “shadow Pope” could cause difficulties for Francis, but Vatican officials insist that Benedict intends to devote the rest of his life to study and prayer and will not be making public pronouncements which could contradict those of his successor.
When he announced his decision to step down, Benedict said he would live out his remaining days “hidden from the world”.
Benedict will live on the ground floor of the convent, which has undergone extensive renovations.
He will be accompanied by a small staff, including his personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein.
Benedict looked pale and bowed the last time he was seen in public, on March 23, when he welcomed Francis to Castel Gandolfo- the first time that an ex-Pope had met a living Pope since the 13th century.
Benedict’s frail appearance contrasted with that of the much more robust-looking Pope Francis.
The Vatican insists that Benedict does not have a serious illness or medical condition, but is simply slowing down as a result of his advanced age.