* Benedict now has title of "Pope Emeritus"
* Former pope will live in small convent on Vatican grounds
* Has promised to obey successor, remain "hidden to the
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY, May 2 Benedict XVI moved back to
the Vatican on Thursday, opening an uncertain era in Catholic
Church history where an "emeritus pope" and a ruling pontiff
will live as neighbours for the first time.
Benedict, the first pope to abdicate in 600 years, will live
out his retirement in a restored convent in the Vatican gardens
with a view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and just a short
walk from the residence of his successor, Francis.
Benedict, 86 and in frail health, arrived by helicopter from
Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, where
he had been staying since Feb. 28 while the convent was being
Francis, 76, was due to greet Benedict later in front of the
convent, the first time they have met since March 23, when
Francis visited Benedict at Castel Gandolfo and Benedict renewed
a pledge of "unconditional reverence and obedience" to Francis.
The small building includes a chapel, a library for the
former theology professor, quarters for his aides and a guest
room for his older brother, Georg, a monsignor.
While the presence of a reigning pope and a former one is a
new situation, experts say it would only cause difficulties if
Benedict tried to influence Pope Francis's decisions, something
he has promised not to do.
Shortly before his resignation, Benedict said he would be
"withdrawing into prayer" and would live out his remaining days
"hidden from the world".
Still, some Church scholars say that in the event that
Francis undoes some of Benedict's policies while he is still
alive, the former pope could become a lightning rod for
conservatives and polarise the Church.
CONSERVATIVE REFERENCE POINT
"Benedict almost certainly will be a point of reference for
critics of Francis, especially in conservative circles. You can
easily imagine them saying, 'Benedict wouldn't have done it this
way,'" said John Allen, author of several books on the Church
and correspondent for the National Catholic reporter.
"That criticism will circulate on blogs, in journals, and in
the pews, no matter where he's physically located, and Benedict
himself won't be a party to it. If anything, being behind
Vatican walls will make it more difficult for the opposition to
reach him and claim some sort of blessing," Allen said.
Vatican officials have said the men, both of whom wear
slightly different white vestments, would likely meet
occasionally and perhaps confer on Church matters but that
Francis is his own man.
"On a human level, it's hard to imagine that Pope Francis
would treat the retired pope as some sort of 'untouchable.' I
think they can certainly spend time together and exchange views
without causing any crisis in the Church," said John Thavis,
author of "The Vatican Diaries".
Benedict's two months away have allowed everyone to get used
to the idea that he is no longer on the Vatican stage, said
Father John Paul Wauck, professor at the Pontifical University
of the Holy Cross in Rome. .
"It was a healthy hiatus during which Francis had the
freedom to establish himself as the new successor of St. Peter,"
Wauck said, adding that he would be surprised if Benedict tried
to influence Church decisions.
When the two met in March, Benedict looked exceptionally
frail. But the Vatican says he suffers only from normal ailments
of old age and has no serious illness.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella; editing by Ralph Boulton)