It's A 'Tale Of Two Popes' As Benedict Returns To Vatican

NPR icon by Scott Neuman
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Vincenzo Pinto

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI moved back to the Vatican and his new retirement residence Thursday, where he will live side by side with the reigning pontiff, Pope Francis.

The arrangement makes history because Benedict, 86, is the first pope to voluntarily step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church in more than 700 years.

Since his Feb. 28 resignation, Benedict has lived at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo in the hills south of Rome. The Associated Press says that since then:

"Benedict ... chose to leave the Vatican immediately after his resignation to physically remove himself from the process of electing his successor and from Pope Francis' first weeks as pontiff."

The Telegraph notes:

"He will take 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."

According to the newspaper, the two popes will be dressed similarly: "As pope emeritus, Benedict wears a white cassock, while Francis wears a white cassock with a short cape around his shoulders."

The AP reports:

"The last time he was seen by the public — March 23 — Benedict appeared remarkably more frail and thin than when he left the Vatican on his final day as pope three weeks earlier. ...

" 'He is a man who is not young: He is old and his strength is slowly ebbing,' Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said this week. 'However, there is no special illness. He is an old man who is healthy.' "

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