February 9, 2023

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With Benedict’s death, an unprecedented moment for the modern Church

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, as Pope Francis rested in the quarters of his humble residence before an evening Mass, gendarmes closed off to visitors the winding walking paths that cross the Vatican gardens in case Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI,  frail as he was, walked out of his monastery to pray.

In the near-decade since Benedict stunned the Catholic Church and the world by becoming the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to retire, an awkward and captivating arrangement pervaded the church. Two popes, past and present, traditionalist and reformist, both cloaked in white robes and invested with moral authority, coexisted on the same minuscule grounds.