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Pope Francis welcomes Benedict XVI to the Vatican

The helicopter carrying Benedict XVI back to the Vatican flies over the St Peter's Basilica (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis welcomed Benedict XVI to the Vatican today, greeting him outside the re-modeled monastery where the 86-year-old retired pontiff and his five aides will now live.

Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus entered the convent’s chapel together “for a brief moment of prayer,” said Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi.

In response to questions about the fact that Benedict XVI seemed to be much frailer than he was two months ago, Father Lombardi told reporters, “he’s an elderly man, weakened by age, but he is not suffering from any illness.” In the last year of his pontificate, Pope Benedict was seen walking with a cane during a number of public occasions and Father Lombardi confirmed that he had had a pacemaker inserted before being elected Pope in 2005.

Benedict XVI had been staying at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo since retiring on February 28. He was brought to the Vatican by helicopter. While the Vatican is now home to the new Pope and the previous one, neither lives in the papal apartments of the Apostolic Palace. Pope Francis continues to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse just south of St Peter’s Basilica where the cardinals stayed during the conclave; the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery where Benedict XVI will now live is just to the north of the basilica.

Since 1994 the monastery has been home to four different communities of cloistered nuns, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Benedictines and Visitandines, who each spent a five- or three-year term there in a life dedicated to praying for the Pope and the church.

Before the first group of nuns took up residence, Blessed John Paul II had it expanded to about 4,600 square feet, including a large chapel, refectory and infirmary. Since the Visitandine nuns moved out in November, the building has undergone a remodeling, including an expansion of the library specifically for Pope Benedict. The structure also includes what was once the Vatican gardener’s house.

The retired pope will live in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery with Archbishop Georg Ganswein, his secretary, who also serves Pope Francis as prefect of the papal household; and with four consecrated laywomen from Memores Domini, Father Lombardi said. The building also has a guestroom designed particularly for visits from Pope Benedict’s older brother, Msgr Georg Ratzinger.