Napolitano, two Popes in the mandate: with Ratzinger and Bergoglio friendship and respect

During his long mandate at the Quirinale “great affinity” with Benedict XVI and the Pope

A relationship made of esteem, respect, friendship and “great affinities”, which went beyond the formal boundaries of the confrontation between Heads of State. This is how Giorgio Napolitano lived, reciprocated, the meeting with the two Popes who ascended the throne of Peter during his long mandate at the QuirinaleBenedict XVI and Pope Francis.

A friendship, that with Pope Ratzinger, which Napolitano, in July 2012, wanted to put down on paper in an article for the Osservatore Romano entitled ‘My friend Benedict XVI’. “I have no hesitation in confessing – wrote the Head of State – that one of the most beautiful components that characterized my experience was precisely the relationship with Benedict XVI. We discovered a great affinity together, we experienced a feeling of great and mutual respect.”

Napolitano had established a completely personal relationship with Benedetto, full of friendship and humanity. A meeting that deeply touched the Head of State, as well as the one with Ratzinger’s successor, Pope Bergoglio. Two words more than others can characterize the relationship between Napolitano and Pope Francis since their first meeting: friendship and essentiality. Several times, since the first months of his pontificate, Napolitano has shown an attention towards Pope Francis that has gone beyond “the excellent state of mutual relations”, thanks also to the friendship shown by the Head of State towards Benedict XVI. And Francis, when Napolitano’s health conditions irremediably worsened, did not fail to say a prayer for him during the general audience on Wednesday, so that “this servant of the country may have comfort”.

‘Pope Francis invites politicians to look higher’

Undoubtedly, the completely new way of interpreting the role of vicar of Christ, with the de facto cancellation of the protocol, with the refusal of the gold cross, of the police car (at the meeting with Napolitano at the Quirinale he arrived aboard a Ford Focus with a limited escort), the refined clothes and vestments and even the pontifical apartment, also left its mark on the President Emeritus, who saw in the attitudes of the current Pontiff that sobriety that he himself preached and practiced.

A message and behavior that should represent, as Napolitano himself underlined during Bergoglio’s visit to the Quirinale in 2013, “new stimuli” for politics, ”far from the culture of meeting”. A policy called to “raise our gaze higher” and to “recover morality”.

Six times, over the years at the Quirinale, Napolitano met the Heads of State from beyond the Tiber. The debut, with Benedict XVI, was on 20 November 2006 with the official visit to the Vatican. The Pontiff reciprocated two years later, on 4 October 2008, at the Quirinale. On 30 April 2009, on the occasion of the concert offered in the Paul VI Hall for the fourth anniversary of Pope Ratzinger’s Pontificate, Napolitano had a twenty-five minute private conversation with the Pontiff. Another face to face on 4 February 2013, a week before the announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation, for the concert organized in the Vatican on the occasion of the anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. Then on 8 June 2013, the Head of State is across the Tiber on an official visit to Pope Francis, elected in March of the same year. On 21 November 2014 Napolitano was received by Pope Bergoglio for a strictly private meeting, a few weeks before his resignation.