PICTURES

Pope and ex-pope pray together in Christmas meeting

In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, right, and Pope Francis pray together, at the Vatican, on Monday, Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP
In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, right, and Pope Francis pray together, at the Vatican, on Monday, Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP
 Pope Francis (left) speaks with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 Pope Francis (left) speaks with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pope Francis (right) shakes hands with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pope Francis (right) shakes hands with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Pope Francis (left) shakes hands with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. Pope Francis made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict on Monday and said he found his 86-year-old predeces
Pope Francis (left) shakes hands with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery at the Vatican, on Dec 23, 2013. Pope Francis made a Christmas visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict on Monday and said he found his 86-year-old predecessor looking well, according to television footage released by the Vatican. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

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

Pope Francis, who was elected in March, spent about 30 minutes with Pope Emeritus 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," Pope Francis told Pope Emeritus 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 Pope Emeritus Benedict has been filmed since his resignation - showed him looking alert and in better health than on previous occasions.

He greeted Pope 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 Pope Francis left Pope Emeritus Benedict, he said, "Merry Christmas, pray for me." Pope Emeritus Benedict responded, "Always, always, always".

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