CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy —
But Benedict went ahead with the title and chose to keep wearing the white cassock of the papacy, albeit without the sash and cape worn by Francis, leading to questions about both his own influence on the future pontiff and whether Catholics more favorable to his traditional style might try to undermine his successor’s authority and agenda by keeping their allegiance to the old pope.
Clearly aware of that potential, Benedict in his last meeting with his cardinals on Feb. 28 pledged his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to the then-unknown future pope, who was nevertheless in the room.
Lombardi said he understood Benedict had repeated that pledge of obedience to Francis on Saturday. Asked how the popes addressed one another, Lombardi demurred, saying he didn’t think they addressed one another as “Your Holiness” or “Pope,” saying the exchange was too familiar and warm for such titles.
The two men couldn’t be more different in style and background: The Argentine-born Francis has made headlines with his simple gestures — no papal regalia, simple black shoes, paying his own hotel bill — and basic message that a pope’s job is to protect the poor.
As archbishop of Buenos Aires, the man now known as Pope Francis worked in the slums, celebrating Masses for prostitutes and drug addicts. He plans to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass this week at a juvenile detention center, where he will wash the feet of 12 inmates in a show of humility echoing that of Jesus.
The German-born Benedict is an academic, one of the world’s leading theologians who spent more than 30 years in the frescoed halls of the Vatican where he was first its chief doctrinal watchdog and then its pope. His primary concern was to remind Christians in Europe of their faith and bring back a more traditional Catholic identity, and with it the brocaded style of the papacy. His Holy Thursday Masses included the traditional foot-washing, but it involved clerics at the St. John Lateran basilica.