Pope Francis to visit predecessor Benedict XVI on March 23

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis will visit his predecessor Benedict XVI on March 23 for the first time since his election, the Vatican said on Saturday.

The new pope, former Argentinian cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, will travel by helicopter to the papal summer residence Castel Gandolfo where Benedict has been staying since his historic resignation last month.

The two men will have lunch together at the residence outside Rome, the Vatican said.

Benedict, 85, last month became the first pope to resign for 700 years when he ended his eight-year reign saying he was no longer up to the rigours of the job.

Francis was a surprise choice in this week's conclave triggered by Benedict's resignation.

The two men know each other well. Bergoglio, 76, is believed to have been runner-up to the German in the 2005 election.