His Holiness Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus, formerly Pope Benedict XVI, was known for his love of cats though due to tradition he was not allowed to keep one at his apartment in Vatican City's Apostolic Palace.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cat Lover, with Gracey

It's not clear when the rule forbidding pets in the papal apartments was instituted and spokesmen for The Holy See have declined to elaborate, but others have been more forthcoming on the subject of Pope Benedict XVI's partiality to felines.

No less an authority than retired Cardinal Roger Mahony (former archbishop of Los Angeles now styled Archbishop Emeritus) opined in 2005 that “The street talk that the pope loves cats is incorrect. The pope adores cats.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cat Lover, with Gracey

What's more, it would appear the affection was mutual. For almost 20 years previous to his election as pontiff, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lived just east of the Vatican in the Roman neighborhood of Borgo Pio. He was said to have enjoyed strolling along the historic avenues, interrupted only by stray cats who would run to greet him.

Neighbors likened the cardinal to a sort of “Dr. Dolittle with a Pied Piper charm” though his habit of bringing snacks for the local cats likely weighed heavily in influencing the felines' feelings.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Cat Lover, with Gracey

Now that the 265th pope has resigned and will be moving to the Mater Ecclesiae monastery inside the Vatican Gardens, he will have a renewed opportunity to indulge his life-long love for cats. 

Chances are also good His Holiness Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus will be reunited with Chico, his black-and-white domestic short hair, who's been cared for at the ex-pope's home in Bavaria since 2005. Just don't expect Chico to be given the title "Felis Emeowitus". (via NBC News, images via Conservation Cub Club)


*** UPDATED on April 13th, 2019 ***