2 popes reach out to atheists in apparent campaign


VATICAN CITY  — Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI has emerged from his self-imposed silence inside the Vatican to publish a lengthy letter to one of Italy’s most well-known atheists. In it, he defends his record on handling sexually abusive priests and discusses everything from evolution to theology to the figure of Jesus Christ.

Excerpts of the letter were published today by La Repubblica, the same newspaper which just two weeks ago published a similar letter from Pope Francis to its own atheist publisher.

The letters indicate the two men in white — who live across the Vatican gardens from one another — are pursuing a collaborative campaign of sorts to engage non-believers. It’s a melding of papacies past and present that has no precedent.