Benedict clears the pontiff′s stage | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 28.02.2013
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Benedict clears the pontiff's stage

The Pope's post will be empty as of Friday, after Benedict XVI's retirement - his successor will be elected only in March. But the ex-pope himself won't have to worry about his pension.

Pope Benedict XVI leaves as he appears for the last time at the balcony of his summer residence in Castelgandolfo, south of Rome, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi (ITALY - Tags: RELIGION)

Papst Benedikt erreicht die Sommerresidenz Castel Gandolfo

People have been pondering what to call a person who has freely chosen to give up his post as pope. There's no easy answer to that since, theologically speaking, the Pope is chosen by God. That means that for Benedict XVI, people can still address him as "Holy Father" and "His Holiness" even after he leaves office.

But in the future, his official title will be "Pope Emeritus," his spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi said. "Emeritus" is a common title for other ecclesiastical dignitaries once their responsibilities end.

During his final general audience, on February 27, 2013, the pope said that one remains a Pope forever: "There is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord," he said.

'Benedict' name stays

The Pope Emeritus, who will soon turn 86, will also continue to use the name "Benedict." He will not take on his former given name of Joseph Ratzinger, although he has always allowed some of those closest to him - including his older brother Georg - to call him "Joseph."

The Pope says goodbye to his cardinals during a farewell ceremony on Feb. 28

The Pope says goodbye to his cardinals during a farewell ceremony on Feb. 28

Some of the Vatican clergy are critical of the new "Pope Emeritus" title. Once the new pope is elected, how can there be two people - one at the post and one retired - being simultaneously called "Pope," some of the clergy have discreetly asked. Celestine V is one pope who resigned from his post more than 700 years ago, later again taking up his Benedictine dress and using his former name again.

Yet the church has had to deal with weightier issues in the past: During the Western Schism in the Middle Ages, up to three people claimed the papal chair simultaneously.

Benedict XVI hasn't had to worry about such matters. He, as Vatican leader, has enjoyed absolute power. Under international law, the smallest nation on Earth is an absolute elective monarchy, in which the Pope is simultaneously government leader, legislator and chief justice.

Chief Shepherd Benedict XVI, in other words, has been able to draw up the rules for his own resignation and for what follows. For us earthly sheep, that means writing one's own retirement check.

No more red shoes

Pope Benedict XVI wearing the famous red papal shoes

The famous red shoes cannot be overlooked

When it comes to papal attire, the retired pope will continue to wear his white soutane, the Vatican said. In the church dress code, the color white is reserved for the Pope. Since there will be two older gentlemen wearing white in Vatican City in the future, the critical difference will be in their shoes.

The famous red shoes are designated for the pope active in office, Father Lombardi said. So Benedict XVI will wear the brown shoes that he loves, which someone gave to him on an official trip to Mexico. "And they're really comfortable," Lombardi said with a smile.

Benedict will give up his golden fisherman's ring - the symbol of papal power. The ring will be "destroyed in a dignified ceremony" at the end of Benedict's pontificate, Lombardi said. Papal infallibility in questions of ecclesiastical faith will also end for Benedict XVI, as the canon ties it to the office of the active pope.

No worries

A view of the 'Mater Ecclesiae' monastery in the gardens of the Vatican, 2013.

Benedict's future residence: the "Mater Ecclesiae" monastery in the gardens of the Vatican

Benedict did not receive a salary while he was the active pope, so he will not draw a pension during his passive phase. But he does 't need this, nor health insurance.

He has specified that things are to proceed as they have over past eight years - in other words, that the "Holy Mother Church" will cover his living expenses and accommodation, doctors' bills and the four nuns who will continue to manage his household in the future. Archbishop Georg Gänswein will remain his private secretary, for the time being.

There will likely be few travel expenses in the future, as the Vatican has said that Benedict - as Pope Emeritus - wishes to occasionally retreat to the small "Mater Ecclesiae" monastery in the Vatican Gardens. He will rarely leave the monastery and Vatican grounds.

Gänswein will also remain prefect of the papal household, managing everyday business for the new pope and deciding with him who is to receive an audience. Gänswein will thus be a link between the passive Pope Benedict and the new one - but it is unclear whether the two will actually be meeting up.

Read and write a lot

Pope Benedict with private secretary Georg Gänswein

Benedict XVI (with private secretary Georg Gänswein, left) at Castel Gandolfo - where he will first reside before moving to Mater Ecclesiae

Benedict XVI seems to have ruled out returning to his native Bavaria, said church historian Hubert in an interview with German newspaper "Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung." He could have lived with his brother in Regensburg, for instance, "but that would have created a kind of pilgrimage destination, a bit of a counterpart to Rome," Wolf noted.

That's why Benedict XVI opted for the seclusion of the Vatican, Wolf said. Wolf presumes the Pope Emeritus will read, pray and write a lot in the future. "He will do what he wanted to do years ago: seclude himself and write books," he said.

Retirement could offer more time for Twittering - Benedict XVI will retain his account, the Vatican said. Currently, the German version of his account, @Pontifex_de, has 60,000 followers.

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