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History is made as Pope Emeritus Benedict returns to the Vatican

May 2, 2013

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has returned to the Vatican after a two month sojourn at the papal summer residence at the Castel Gandolfo. Benedict shocked the world in late February 2013 when he announced his intention to resign from the papacy, citing his declining health and energy as making him unsuitable to continue in the position. His relocation to permanent residence in the Vatican in early May marks the first time in history when two popes have cohabitated in the tiny city-nation. 

From this point forward, the Pope Emeritus will live a converted monastery tucked behind St. Peter's Basilica with his long term personal secretary and the four consecrated women who cook his meals and maintain his home. The living space also contains a small library and study for Benedict's use, an attached chapel and guest accommodations for his brother. Pope Francis, the current pontiff lives about ten minutes away from his predecessor by foot in the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope chose the simpler lodgings over the large and elaborate papal apartments. 

The two popes will spend their time in close proximity wearing nearly identical outfits, both the former and current pope will wear a white cassock, though Francis will also have a small white cape around his shoulders. 

Benedict's failing health
Commentators widely noted that  the former pope looked significantly more frail between his departure from the Apostolic Palace and a meeting with his successor three weeks later. During a recent meeting he was using a cane to get around. Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi, has confirmed that Benedict's health has declined since his retirement, but maintains that he does not have any specific medical troubles.

"He is a man who is not young: He is old and his strength is slowly ebbing," Lombardi said according to the New York Daily News. "However, there is no special illness. He is an old man who is healthy."

Benedict has stated that he does not intended to remain involved in Vatican affairs in his retirement years, and instead plans to dedicate his life to contemplative prayer. 

New pope moving forward
Francis, Benedict's successor, does not seem bothered by his unusual new living arrangement. The Argentine pontiff frequently invokes the former pope's names and has said he intends to use him as a resource for the church. 

Pope Francis has been busy since taking office in March. He recently appointed a council of 8 advisors from around the globe to advise him on how to best reform the Vatican's bureaucracy. 

Catholics interested in developments unfolding in the Vatican can pick up an international calling card and connect with other members of the world wide church community. 

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