Pope Francis in historic meeting with Benedict XVI

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POPE Francis travelled south of Rome to have lunch with his “brother” and predecessor Benedict XVI in a historic meeting yesterday.

The two men dressed in white embraced warmly on the helipad in the gardens of Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict has been living since he stepped down on 28 February, becoming the first pope to resign in 600 years.

In a series of gestures that ensued, Benedict made clear that he considered Francis to be the Pope while Francis made clear he considered his predecessor to be very much a ­revered brother and equal.

They clasped hands repeatedly, showing one another the deference owed a pope in ways that turned Vatican protocol upside down.

Travelling from the helipad to the palazzo, Francis sat on the right-hand side of the car, the traditional place of the pope, while Benedict sat on the left. When they entered the chapel inside the palazzo to pray, Benedict tried to direct Francis to the papal kneeler at the front of the chapel, but Francis refused.

“No, we are brothers,” Francis told Benedict, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi. He said Francis wanted to pray together with Benedict.