(Left) Pope Benedict photo by Gregory A. Shemitz, (right) Pope Francis photo by Andrea Sabbadini.

Francis and Benedict embrace as “brothers” in first meeting of two popes

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis on Saturday (March 23) hailed his predecessor Benedict XVI as a “brother” in a historic first meeting between two living popes in more than 700 years. Francis left the Vatican by helicopter to visit Benedict, who has been living in the papal summer retreat of Castel Gandolfo since his resignation on Feb. 28. The two pontiffs were both dressed in white cassocks – the popes’ signature color – but Francis’ role as the ruling pope was signaled by the white sash and cape he donned over the vest. According to the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the two popes first went to pray together in the villa’s chapel.