Two pope trouble: Benedict heads back to the Vatican

Fears former pope's move back into Vatican could make him 'lightning rod' for Pope Francis' critics

(Image credit: Getty Images)

HISTORY will be made at the Vatican today when Pope Benedict moves into a new home in the city state, not far from the residence occupied by his successor Pope Francis.

Prior to his resignation, 86-year-old Benedict (above) said he would "withdraw into prayer" and live his final years "hidden from the world". But USA Today says there are fears that the "staunchly conservative former pope" could become a "lightning rod" for members of the church who oppose Francis's reforms.

Pope Benedict, who stepped down as head of the Catholic Church in March, is moving into a newly renovated monastery behind Saint Peter's Basilica. He will be welcomed by Pope Francis today and "all eyes will be on Benedict's physical state", says CBC News. "The last time he [Benedict] was seen by the public - 23 March - he appeared remarkably more frail and thin than when he left the Vatican on his final day three weeks earlier."

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As soon as Benedict announced his intention to become the first pontiff to resign in 600 years, questions began to "swirl" about the implications of having a "former pope and a current pope living alongside one another in the Vatican". CBC News says Benedict "fuelled those concerns" by choosing to be called "pope emeritus" and "your holiness" rather than "emeritus bishop of Rome". He also raised eyebrows when he chose to continue wearing the white cassock of the papacy.

The potentially awkward situation is compounded by the fact that Benedict's personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, is moving into the monastery with the former pope. Gaenswein will continue to serve as the prefect of the papal household, charged with managing Pope Francis’ schedule.

Benedict's second secretary, Alfred Xuereb, a Maltese priest, has also been serving as a personal aide to the new Argentine pontiff since his election.

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