But the private Pope, according to several well-placed Vatican prelates who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is another matter.
"The style inside the Vatican now is totally different," said a monsignor. "He is keeping a lot of us guessing."
John Paul would invite visitors to his private mass early every morning and engage them afterwards at breakfast on a host of issues facing the Church and the world.
Before his health declined, John Paul's dinners were legendary for their cultural exchange and lively intellectual banter.
Benedict, by contrast, has precious few visitors to his private apartments apart from his close staff. So, hints of what is on his mind or of impending decisions rarely trickle out.
As private and reserved as he was before his election, he spends much of his private time in the evening reading, and occasionally relaxes by playing the piano.