Retired Pope Benedict XVI ‘grateful’ to Pope Francis for year of St. Joseph

ROME – In a rare new interview with a German newspaper, retired pope Benedict XVI praised his successor’s devotion to St. Joseph and thanked Pope Francis for launching a special year dedicated to his namesake.

Speaking with the German newspaper Die Tagespost, Benedict XVI said, “I am naturally particularly pleased that Pope Francis is so aware of the importance of Saint Joseph.”

“Therefore, I read with particular gratitude and sincere approval the apostolic exhortation Patris Corde,” meaning “Father of the Heart,” which was the title of Pope Francis’s apostolic letter for the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church.

In his interview Benedict, born as Joseph Ratzinger, recalled celebrating the March 19 feast of his saintly namesake, saying on that day “there was always a primrose as a sign of spring, which St. Joseph carries with him,” often displayed with St. Joseph in artistic depictions, “and our mother always prepared a cake with icing.”

Saint Joseph has been a figure close to popes throughout history. Benedict XVI himself is the fourth pope in recent memory to hold the baptismal name of Jesus’s adoptive father.

Others include: Saint Pope Pius X, whose birth name was Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto; Saint Pope John XXIII, whose name was Giuseppe Roncalli; and Saint Pope John Paul II, who was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla.

Although he does not share St. Joseph’s name, Pope Francis formally began his papal ministry in 2013 on the saint’s March 19 feast, giving him and his ministry a close connection to St. Joseph.