Why did Pope Francis visit Benedict XVI? To say happy birthday!

Why did Pope Francis visit Benedict XVI? To say happy birthday!

Pope Francis with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the Monastery of Mater Ecclesiae in Vatican City on June 30, 2015. L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO

VATICAN— Early Easter greetings and birthday wishes were the reason for Pope Francis’ visit with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

Following his annual custom, Francis visited his predecessor at Vatican City’s Mater Ecclesiae monastery on April 12 to extend his greetings ahead of Easter Sunday. The Vatican Press Office said the visit had “a double celebratory character” given that Benedict XVI’s 90th birthday, April 16, falls on Easter this year.

Benedict XVI sends birthday greetings to Pope Francis every Dec. 17. Last December, on Pope Francis’ 80th birthday, the Pope emeritus sent a “very affectionate” written message that was “particularly appreciated” by the current pontiff, the Holy See press office said.

That December day, the Pope emeritus also sent three small gifts and made a personal phone call to his successor.