The Clementine Hall of the Vatican hosted a very special celebration ... that began with this embrace.
Benedict XVI is celebrating his 65 years of priesthood, with a simple tribute which was attended by numerous cardinals and Pope Francis, who dedicated a few tender words to his predecessor.
'Lord, you know I love you.' This is the note that dominates your entire life spent in serving as a priest and in the service of true theology which you have defined as "seeking the Beloved” by chance."
He also thanked him for his ceaseless service to the Church, now with his prayer from the Monastery Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican. Something Pope Francis confessed that it helps him a lot.
"You continue to serve the Church and you don't stop contributing to the growth with vigor and wisdom. From your prayers we perceive tranquility, peace, strength, confidence, maturity, faith, dedication and fidelity that helps me a lot. It helps me and the whole Church. And let me also tell you that from you comes a healthy and joyful sense of humor.”
Both Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Sodano also delivered a speech in which they thanked Benedict XVI for his 65 years of priesthood.
And just before the end came the surprise. After a long time without hearing him speak in public, the Pope Emeritus spoke off the cuff as he thanked them for their tribute. He was especially fond of Pope Francis.
"Thank you Holy Father. Thank you for your kindness, that from the moment of your election in every moment of my life here reaches me. I feel it profoundly... Really more than in the Vatican Gardens with its beauty, your goodness is the place where I live and where I feel protected.”
He also asked Pope Francis to go ahead on the path of divine mercy and asked for a world full of love and life, not death.
Afterwords, both popes greeted people that were present at the celebration. Pope Francis was very kind to the women caring for Benedict XVI.
The celebration ended just like it began, as both popes tenderly said goodbye.