Update March 14: The AP is reporting that the Vatican has admitted to doctoring the photo of Benedict's letter in a way that changed the meaning. Full story here.
VATICAN, March 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The newly-formed Vatican news agency is reporting that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has written a letter saying there is an “interior continuity between the two pontificates” – that of Pope Francis and his own. Moreover, the letter speaks of the “foolish prejudice” of those who view Francis as lacking in theological and philosophical formation and Benedict as out of touch with concrete realities.
The letter came, the Vatican says, after Pope Benedict was presented with a Vatican-published series of 11 books entitled “The Theology of Pope Francis.”
“I applaud this initiative,” says the letter. “It contradicts the foolish prejudice of those who see Pope Francis as someone who lacks a particular theological and philosophical formation, while I would have been solely a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete lives of today’s Christian.”
The books, he says, “reasonably demonstrate that Pope Francis is a man with profound philosophical and theological formation and are helpful to see the interior continuity between the two pontificates, even with all the differences in style and temperament.”
Watch Vatican News explain the letter:
The comments echo those Pope Benedict made in a June 28, 2016 Vatican celebration of his 65th anniversary of priestly ordination. At the time, Pope Benedict told Pope Francis: “Thank you, Holy Father, for your goodness, which from the first moment of your election, to every moment of my life here, has touched my heart.” The Pope Emeritus added, “More than the beauty of the Vatican Gardens, your goodness is the place where I live; I feel protected.”
Also in a book of interviews with Pope Benedict completed some months after Pope Francis’ election but only published in 2016, the Pope Emeritus was asked if he saw any kind of break between his pontificate and that of Francis. In Last Testament, he replied:
No. I mean, one can of course misinterpret in places, with the intention of saying that everything has been turned on its head now. If one isolates things, takes them out of context, one can construct opposites, but not if one looks at the whole. There may be a different emphasis, of course, but no opposition.