Benedict XVI back home – two interesting photos

A couple of days ago Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome, returned to the Vatican. His dower house, Mater Ecclesiae, has been made ready for him, and Pope Francis toddled down from the big house to welcome him. Some have suggested that it is awkward for Pope Francis to have his predecessor living in the garden. If so, he hides it supremely well.

Perhaps I am reading too much into the angle of the photo, but Benedict seems much gaunter in the face, and slimmer in the body. Age seems suddenly to have hit him. Is he well? If not, is this possibly one small reason why no live coverage of his return was allowed by the Vatican? It adds an ominous undertone to a lovely picture.

Another picture has emerged from the day. It shows Pope Francis and Benedict at prayer in the dower house chapel shortly after Benedict’s arrival.

After struggling still to absorb the remarkable sight of two live popes at prayer together, my eye wandered around the chapel. It’s lovely.

The chapel is utterly simple and un-ostentatious (it is not only Pope Francis who can be so, though he certainly is). Yet, for all its simplicity, it is utterly Catholic. To my poorly trained eye, it looks as one might have hoped for a chapel to look in the wake of Vatican II’s document on the liturgy, Sacrosanctun Concilium. The focus is exclusively on the altar, the place of the Sacrifice, symbol of the Cross and of Christ himself. It is a symbolism boldly affirmed by the imposing yet elegant crucifix above the altar. The altar faces East, the direction of the rising sun and the Returning Son, the ancient and now so tragically neglected direction of Christian prayer and worship. The altar is dressed simply but worthily. Christ abides in the small tabernacle directly behind the altar. The big six are there too, appropriately sized.  The Paschal Candle is the only other object to compete with the altar for attention. However, one might reasonably suspect there is an image or statue of our Lady in there as well. St Joseph too? The Sacred Heart? St Benedict?! Hopefully we will be allowed a few more glimpses into the dower chapel.

It strikes me that this chapel is undoubtedly fitted out according to Benedict’s desires, shows Benedict’s commitment to the liturgical vision of Vatican II. That is not quite the same as a commitment to the liturgy as it is most often celebrated around the world. Cloistered with the Cross though he now is, Benedict still witnesses to the liturgy the Church treasures and deserves, even if only God and the angels might see it day by day.

Still, now we too have had a brief and privileged glimpse. It is enough, let us pray, to remind the Church of Benedict’s parting call to rediscover the “true Council”. Just as the Council’s decrees began with the liturgy, so may the Church look again to the Council’s liturgical reforms as they actually decreed them, and confirm whether it is these reforms we were given. If so, let us rejoice. If not, let us waste no time in reclaiming them.

May the Lord protect and defend Pope Francis and Benedict; may they both bear much fruit to God’s glory and our good.

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16 thoughts on “Benedict XVI back home – two interesting photos

  1. Teresa davis says:

    Beautiful. The only comment I can make is Amen

    Like

  2. londiniensis says:

    Thank you so much for posting these high-quality photos.

    I think the lack of TV coverage is more a result of Benedict’s desire to disappear into a life of prayer and study, and not to “upstage” the Holy Father, rather than any Vatican spin, however well intentioned.

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      You could be right, and it would show a commendable deference to the desire of the emeritus if the Vatican was acting at Benedict’s behest. It could also be that the Vatican itself is trying to balance giving Benedict the coverage he deserves, without giving him too much. But I would not rule out Pope Francis having a definitive say in this, and possibly out of respect to Benedict if the latter is beginning to decline.

      I am certainly not suggesting anything negative or sinister in the low-key coverage. It seems just right to me.

      Pax!

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  3. Jean Willcox says:

    Dear Fr Hugh, Thank you for all that comes this way! I might well be interested in one of these two photos for the next issue of Monastic Musicians Newsletter Please, can you tell me the position over copyright and how to obtain a larger image? ie more pixels. Every good wish on this beautiful day. With thanks,Jean ocdCarmelite Monastery, Ware Date: Sat, 4 May 2013 21:56:24 +0000 To: jeanmusiccards@hotmail.co.uk

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Salve Sr Jean!

      The photos I obtained by linking directly to them on the net (so if you click them they will get bigger). By using a direct link I find that copyright seems not to an issue. And to be honest, I tend to use Google Search to find images. My advice would be to search for something like “Pope Francis welcomes Benedict to Mater Ecclesiae” (I think that is what I used), and then select from news sites. Normally they are not too worried about non-commercial/non-profit use use as by us, as long as they receive acknowledgment, which is fair enough. But it is easy to make an enquiry on news sites and get a positive answer.

      Does that help at all?

      Pax!

      Like

  4. Jennifer Smith says:

    Dear Hugh, thank you for all these postings. I love them, and they always make me think, and love being a Catholic. God Bless you.

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  5. Giorgio Masini says:

    Pace e Bene !

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  6. Rachel says:

    Fr.Hugh
    Given there was no live coverage of Benedict’s return to the Vatican,my thoughts were the same as yours;the poor man is very frail and do we really want to see him struggle in and out of cars and a helicopter?? I hope that we are allowed to see the odd photo of him,though these are quite beautiful.Long Live Them Both!!!

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      Hi Rachel.

      My fear is that video coverage might now be pretty much at an end, with just the odd still photograph, perhaps. Benedict will want to be invisible as he occupies his time with prayer and, I hope, more writing. Indeed some more writing from him would more than atone for the lack of photos.

      Viva Benedetto! Viva Francesco!

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  7. Thank you so much for your visual eye! Now I remember that I stumbled on your blog when I was searching for a graphic, so it makes sense…. The photo is beautiful, and I was a bit amused that my instinct was the same as yours – to look at the Chapel and how it was decorated. Too modern and spare for my personal tastes, but very pleasing none the less.

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  8. Jean Willcox says:

    Dear Fr Hugh, I wrote a while back asking if you could possibly tell me the source of these two photos? I should very much like to use one of them for the cover of the next Monastic Musicians Newsletter – if I can get hold a a copy with more pixels and, gain copyright permission. Needed as soon as poss. now. Thanks in advance for your help. Jean ocd Carmelite Monastery, Ware Date: Sat, 4 May 2013 21:56:24 +0000 To: jeanmusiccards@hotmail.co.uk

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    • Fr Hugh says:

      In fact I answered you almost straight away, if you look above. I shall email it to you as well. This is what I said:

      The photos I obtained by linking directly to them on the net (so if you click them they will get bigger). By using a direct link I find that copyright seems not to an issue. And to be honest, I tend to use Google Search to find images. My advice would be to search for something like “Pope Francis welcomes Benedict to Mater Ecclesiae” (I think that is what I used), and then select from news sites. Normally they are not too worried about non-commercial/non-profit use use as by us, as long as they receive acknowledgment, which is fair enough. But it is easy to make an enquiry on news sites and get a positive answer.

      Does that help at all?

      Pax!

      That’s as good as I can do.

      Like

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