When Pope Benedict XVI Steps Down, Call Him ‘Emeritus Pope’

Pope Benedict White
Pope Benedict XVI. Reuters

Pope Benedict XVI will retire from the papacy on Thursday. Then his unprecedented official title will be “emeritus pope” and he will continue to wear the traditional white cassock of the papal office, the Vatican announced Tuesday.

Benedict will continue to be addressed as “Your Holiness,” according to The Associated Press. Benedict XVI will also keep his name after his steps away from the papacy but not title of bishop of Rome, notes The New York Times.

At the news conference, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Varican spokesman, said Pope Benedict XVI will wear the white cassock associated with the office but will not wear the mozzetta, a cape worn by prelates of the church, including cardinals, bishops and the pope.   

Pope Benedict XVI also will not wear the customary red shoes, opting for a more routine brown shoe, notes NYT. Benedict  will also forfeit his fisherman’s ring used to seal documents. 

As with any move, the pope’s belongings are being packed and readied for delivery to his retirement home, a renovated former nunnery within the Vatican. Benedict still has several scheduled meetings, including with the president of Slovakia and the premier of Bavaria, as well as a public audience on Wednesday, notes NYT.

Any fear about a potential rift within a Vatican with two living popes was dismissed by Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L'Osservatore Romano, the official daily newspaper of the Vatican. Speaking to AP, he said, “According to the evolution of Catholic doctrine and mentality, there is only one pope. Clearly it's a new situation, but I don't think there will be problems.”

Other officials and experts are not as certain. Some believe Benedict could still have influence over decisions in the Vatican and that his successor may feel the pressure of having a retired pope so close by. Another concern is that secretarial duties for both popes will be shared by one man, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, reports AP.

On Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI will say goodbye and spend time at the summer papal residence, Castel Gandolfo, until work is completed on the nunnery. The College of Cardinals will begin discussing problems within the church and the Vatican as well as setting a date to begin the process of electing a new pontiff on Monday, reports AP.

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