Pope Francis has hailed the papacy of retired Pope Benedict XVI following a meeting of bishops that exposed divisions between progressive Catholics who back Francis' call for a more merciful church and conservatives who are nostalgic about Benedict's emphasis on doctrine.

Francis unveiled a bronze bust of Benedict on Monday in the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The bust features the retired pope wearing an embroidered papal stole, an example of the elaborate liturgical dress that the tradition-minded Benedict favored.

Francis called Benedict a "great pope," praising his teaching, theological contributions, devotion to the church and current "monastic life" in retirement.

Francis has gone out of his way to embrace Benedict even as he steers the church on a vastly different course.