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Pope Francis and Benedict pray together in Christmas meeting

Pope Francis (L) meeting with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican. (AFP)

Pope Francis made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict and said he found his 86-year-old predecessor looking well, according to television footage released by the Vatican.

Francis, who was elected in March, spent about 30 minutes with Benedict in an ex-convent on the Vatican grounds where the former pope has been living in near isolation.

"It's a pleasure to see you looking so well," Francis told Benedict, who in February became the first pope in 600 years to step down instead of ruling for life.

Television footage released by the Vatican - only the fourth time Benedict has been filmed since his resignation - showed him looking alert and in better health than on previous occasions.

He greeted Francis, 77, at the door of the residence, standing with an ivory-handled wooden cane. They walked to a chapel where they stood and prayed before speaking privately in another room.

When Francis left Benedict, he said, "Merry Christmas, pray for me." Benedict responded, "Always, always, always".

Benedict resigned on Feb. 28, saying he no longer had the physical and spiritual strength to lead the 1.2 billion member Roman Catholic Church.

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Tags:  World  Vatican  Pope Francis  Pope Emeritus Benedict  


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