Ex-pope Benedict in rare public appearance at cardinals ceremony

AFP , Saturday 22 Feb 2014

Former pope Benedict XVI, who retired last year, made a rare public appearance on Saturday at a ceremony lead by his successor Pope Francis in St. Peter's Basilica to appoint new cardinals.

Benedict, who lives in a monastery inside the Vatican walls and had sworn to remain "hidden from the world", joined the cardinals in the front row of the basilica for the ceremony to create 19 new "princes of the Church."

The elderly former pontiff, 86, seemed cheerful as he sat cloaked in his white papal garments in the midst of the red-robed cardinals, who have been selected by Francis to join the elite group responsible for electing future popes.

It is extremely rare to see the pope and former pope in the same location, and it is the first time Joseph Ratzinger -- who shocked the world in February last year by announcing his retirement as head of the Catholic Church -- has participated at a public ceremony in the basilica.

The new cardinals will be presented with scarlet-red birettas and gold rings at a grandiose ceremony lead by the first non-European pope in nearly 1,300 years, who took over the reins from Benedict on 13 March.

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