Pope Emeritus Benedict has said he resigned after God told him during what he called a “mystical experience”, a Catholic news agency reported.
Pope Benedict announced his shock resignation in February and became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years.
“God told me to do it,” the Zenith agency quoted Benedict as saying to a visitor to the convent in the Vatican gardens where he is living out his retirement in near isolation.
According to the agency, Benedict told his visitor, who asked to remain anonymous, that God did not speak to him in a vision but in what the former pope called “a mystical experience”.
Pope Benedict announced his shock resignation in February and became the first pontiff to step down in 600 years
According to Italian media, Pope Benedict’s decision to step down was influenced by the various scandals that blighted his eight-year papacy, including the arrest of his personal butler for leaking private documents alleging corruption in the Vatican.
He was succeeded by Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who was elected as the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years.
According to the Rome-based Zenith, Benedict told his visitor that the more he observes the way Pope Francis carries out his papal duties, the more he realized the choice was “wanted by God”.
Last Sunday, Benedict spent a day at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, to escape the heat of the capital.
The visit indicated that the 86-year-old ex pope’s health was good enough for him to travel.
There had been media reports that since his resignation, Pope Emeritus Benedict’s health had deteriorated dramatically.
Pope Francis has stunned the owners of a Buenos Aires newspaper kiosk, by phoning directly to cancel his order.
Luis Del Regno and his son Daniel delivered papers to former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s residence every weekday.
Daniel Del Regno said he thought it was a prank when a caller earlier this week introduced himself as “Cardinal Jorge”.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the first Latin American Pope when he was elected on March 13 after the shock resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
He chose the name Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi – the 13th century Italian saint who spurned a life of luxury to work with the poor.
Each Sunday, the archbishop of Buenos Aires would come and pick up the paper himself at 05:30 before catching a bus to distribute tea to sick people in the suburb of Lugano, said Luis Del Regno.
When Daniel Del Regno answered the phone on Monday, he could not believe it was the newly-elected Pope, the Catholic News Agency reported.
“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome,” Pope Francis had told Daniel Del Regno.
“I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say,” Daniel Del Regno told Argentine daily La Nacion.
“He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.”
“I asked him if there would ever be the chance to see him here again. He said that for the time being that would be very difficult, but that he would always be with us.”
Pope Francis has stunned the owners of a Buenos Aires newspaper kiosk, by phoning directly to cancel his order
Daniel Del Regno said he had asked Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before he left for Rome if he thought he would be elected in the secret conclave.
“He answered me: <<That is too hot to touch. See you in 20 days, keep delivering the paper>>. And the rest is, well, history,” he said.
The former cardinal had booked a return ticket to Buenos Aires where he was expecting to lead Easter services next weekend.
Instead, as Pope Francis, will celebrate Mass on Holy Thursday in St Peter’s Basilica, and will wash the feet of prisoners in a youth detention centre in Rome, continuing a pre-Easter practice he began while archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Normally feet-washing Masses before Easter are held in the Vatican or a Rome basilica.
Luis Del Regno said he had “thousands of stories” about the new Pope, including the fact that he used to collect all the rubber bands that were wrapped around his newspapers.
“At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me,” said Luis Del Regno.
“All 30 of them!”
Pope Francis has already stamped his humble style on the papacy – spurning a special car to take a bus with his cardinals after he was elected, and insisting on returning to his Rome hotel the next day to pay his own bill.
The new Pope has called for the Roman Catholic Church to be closer to ordinary people, especially the poor and disadvantaged.
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announces she has asked for Pope Francis’ intervention in the Falklands dispute between her country and the UK.
Visiting the Vatican, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said she had asked Pope Francis to promote dialogue between the two sides.
Argentine Pope Francis was elected last week and will be formally installed as pontiff at a Mass on Tuesday.
In the past Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has said the Falkland Islands, a UK overseas territory, belong to Argentina.
Before being elected as the new pontiff, the 76-year-old was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Relations between him, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, and her late husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, were tense.
“I asked for his intervention to avoid problems that could emerge from the militarization of Great Britain in the south Atlantic,” Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner told reporters after a 15-20 minute meeting and lunch with the Pope.
“We want a dialogue and that’s why we asked the pope to intervene so that the dialogue is successful.”
There has been no word yet as to how the Pope responded to the appeal.
In a referendum held a week ago, people in the Falkland Islands voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining a UK overseas territory.
At a Mass last year, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio told Argentine veterans of the Falklands War: “We come to pray for all who have fallen, sons of the Homeland who went out to defend their mother, the Homeland, and to reclaim what is theirs.”
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announces she has asked for Pope Francis’ intervention in the Falklands dispute between her country and the UK
British Prime Minister David Cameron said last week that he “respectfully” disagreed with the view expressed in the past by Pope Francis that the Falkland Islands had been “usurped” by the UK.Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is the first head of state Pope Francis has met. She presented him with a mate gourd and straw for drinking traditional Argentine tea.
The two also kissed, and the president remarked afterwards: “Never in my life has a pope kissed me!”
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gave a muted welcome to the Pope’s election. The two have clashed in the past, especially over social reforms promoted by her and her late husband in the face of Church opposition.
When the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio argued that gay adoptions discriminated against children, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said his tone harked back to “medieval times and the Inquisition”.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner once referred to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the “head of the opposition”.
Last year, the cardinal said Argentina was being harmed by demagoguery, totalitarianism, corruption and efforts to secure unlimited power, the Associated Press reports.
The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis I failed to speak out against human rights abuses during military rule in his native Argentina.
“There has never been a credible, concrete accusation against him,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, adding the Pope had never been charged.
Federico Lombardi blamed the accusations on “anti-clerical left-wing elements that are used to attack the Church”.
Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, led Argentina’s Jesuits under the junta.
Correspondents say that like other Latin American churchmen of the time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio had to contend, on the one hand, with a repressive right-wing regime and, on the other, a wing of his Church leaning towards political activism on the left.
One allegation concerns the abduction in 1976 of two Jesuits by the Argentina’s military government, suspicious of their work among slum-dwellers.
As the priests’ provincial superior at the time, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was accused by some of having failed to shield them from arrest – a charge his office flatly denied.
The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis I failed to speak out against human rights abuses during military rule in his native Argentina
Judges investigating the arrest and torture of the two men – who were freed after five months – questioned Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a witness in 2010.The new Pope’s official biographer, Sergio Rubin, argues that the Jesuit leader “took extraordinary, behind-the-scenes action to save them”.
Another accusation leveled against Pope Francis I from the Dirty War era is that he failed to follow up a request to help find the baby of a woman kidnapped when five months pregnant and who was killed in 1977. It is believed the baby was illegally adopted.
Jorge Mario Begoglio testified in 2010 that he had not known about baby thefts until well after the junta fell – a claim relatives dispute.
Pope Francis I has begun his first day at the helm of the Catholic Church, attempting to set out his vision for his papacy amid a testing schedule.
The Pope will lead cardinals in his first Mass, begin appointing senior Vatican staff and may visit his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus.
Pope Francis I is the first Latin American and Jesuit pope and has received a flood of goodwill messages from around the world.
He also faces a series of tough challenges.
The Church has been dogged by infighting and scandals over clerical sex abuse and alleged corruption.
Thursday morning saw Pope Francis I beginning the day with a visit to Rome’s main basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria Maggiore, for a private prayer.
“He spoke to us cordially like a father,” Reuters news agency quoted Father Ludovico Melo, a priest who prayed with the Pope, as saying.
“We were given 10 minutes’ advance notice that the Pope was coming.”
The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires shocked many onlookers when it was revealed on Wednesday.
Although he reportedly came second to Pope Benedict XVI during the 2005 conclave, few had predicted the election of the first pope from outside Europe in 1,300 years.
Pope Francis I will return to the Sistine Chapel on Thursday afternoon, scene of his election, to celebrate Mass with the cardinals.
Over the weekend, he will meet the world’s media at a special papal audience, an opportunity perhaps to set out some of his global vision.
Pope Francis I has begun his first day at the helm of the Catholic Church, attempting to set out his vision for his papacy amid a testing schedule
Pope Francis I had been greeted by crowds roaring their approval when he appeared at the balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square on Wednesday evening, about an hour after white smoke rose from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel to announce to the world that a new pontiff had been elected.
“It seems that my brother cardinals have gone to the ends of the earth [to find a pope],” Francis said wryly, referring to his native Argentina.
“Now, we take up this journey… A journey of fraternity, of love, of trust among us,” he said.
Pope Francis I endeared himself to the crowds – and underlined his reputation for humility – when he asked them to bless him before blessing them in return.
Later, according to the New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Pope Francis I shunned a special car and security detail provided to take him to the Vatican – “I’ll just go with the guys [cardinals] on the bus,” Cardinal Dolan quoted him as saying.
At the dinner itself, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the Pope had made the cardinals laugh when he referred to the seven days of meetings that led to his election, saying: “I am going to sleep well tonight and something tells me you are too.”
The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first pope to take the name of Francis – reminiscent of Francis of Assisi, the 13th Century Italian reformer and patron saint of animals, who lived in poverty.
He faces a gruelling schedule over coming days, with a visit to his predecessor Benedict XVI at his retreat at Castel Gandolfo outside Rome reportedly planned, as well as audiences with his cardinals, the media and the faithful.
The visit to Benedict is important, correspondents say, as the existence of a living retired pope has prompted fears of a possible rival power.
The Pope will be installed officially in an inauguration Mass on Tuesday, March 19, the Vatican said.
His election was met with thunderous applause at the cathedral in Buenos Aires and with delight and surprise elsewhere in Latin America – home to 40% of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Guillermo Lopez Mirau from Salta, Argentina, said he was delighted with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election.
“People here are overjoyed. You can hear sirens and church bells ringing in the air.”
President Barack Obama sent “warm wishes” on behalf of the American people to the newly elected pontiff, hailing the Argentine as “the first pope from the Americas”.
The new leader of the world’s Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said he was looking forward to “walking and working together”.
And Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – who is said to have clashed with the Argentine archbishop in the past over issues including gay marriage – wished the pontiff a “fruitful pastoral mission”.
Pope Francis I takes the helm at a difficult time for the Catholic Church, facing an array of challenges which include the role of women, interfaith tensions and dwindling congregations in some parts of the world.
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was not among the frontrunners before the election, is regarded as a doctrinal conservative.
But he is also seen as a potential force for reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, which may have won the support of reforming cardinals.
Pope Francis I will come under strong pressure to reform the Curia, the governing body of the Church.
Pope Francis I’s next schedule:
Thursday, March 14: Pope celebrates Mass with cardinals in Sistine Chapel – closed to public but televised
Friday, March 15: Pope meets all cardinals, including those over 80 who did not take part in conclave
Saturday, March 16: Papal audience with media
Sunday, March 17: Pope recites Angelus with faithful in St Peter’s Square
Tuesday, March 19: Pope formally installed at Mass in St Peter’s Square