Benedict XVI to be called “Pontiff Emeritus” or “Pope Emeritus” and some other end-of-Pontificate details

From VIS:


Vatican City, 26 February 2013 (VIS) – Benedict XVI will be “Pontiff emeritus” [would that be “Roman Pontiff Emeritus”?] or “Pope emeritus”, as Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, reported in a press conference on th final days of the current pontificate. He will keep the name of “His Holiness, Benedict XVI” and will dress in a simple white cassock without the mozzetta (elbow-length cape).  [The elbow-length cape is a sign of jurisdiction, it isn’t just for warmth or decoration.  I once ran into an SSPX bishop at a Roman clerical tailor and asked him what the little shoulder cape meant (of course I already knew)… he got pretty mad.   But I digress…]
More than 50,000 tickets have already been requested for the Pope’s final general audience tomorrow morning, 27 February, but greater attendance is expected. Except for the trip around St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile and the exclusion of the “bacciamani” (brief personal greetings that take place after the ceremony), the audience will take place as usual. On its conclusion, the Pope will go to the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Palace to meet with some of the civil authorities who are present in Rome or who have travelled here to wish him farewell. Among these dignitaries will be the presidents of Slovakia and of the German region of Bavaria.
On the morning of 28 February, the last day of his pontificate, the Pope will meet with, again in the Clementine Hall, the cardinals what are present in Rome. At 4:55pm, in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace and before a detachment of the Swiss Guards, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., secretary of State of His Holiness, and and other members of that dicastery will bid him farewell. The Pope’s helicopter will land at Castel Gandolfo at 5:15pm, where he will be received by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, respectively president and secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State along with Bishop Marcello Semeraro of the Diocese of Albano, and civil authorities of the locality.
Benedict XVI will appear at the balcony of the Castel Gandolfo Apostolic Palace to greet those who have gathered in the square to wish him well. The Sede Vacante will begin at 8:00pm and the Swiss Guards assigned to him at Castel Gandolfo will take their leave, as their corps is dedicated to the safe-guarding of the Roman Pontiff. Instead, the Vatican Gendarmerie will take over the Pope emeritus’ safety detail.
Fr. Lombardi also explained that Bendict XVI will no longer use the “Fisherman’s Ring”, which will be destroyed along with the lead seal of the pontificate. This task falls to the cardinal camerlengo and his assistants. Likewise, the Press Office director announced that the Pope will no longer wear the red papal shoes.  [How disappointed the liberals will be.  They like to focus on that stuff.]
Regarding the beginning of the Congregations of Cardinals, the dean of the College of Cardinals will send a letter to all the cardinals on 1 March, calling them to Rome. “It is likely, therefore,” Fr. Lombardi added, “that the congregations will begin starting next week.” [Shall we say… March 4?  Then they will have to fix the date of the conclave.  They probably won’t get through the immediate business on the first day, so let’s guess they’ll fix the date of the conclave on the second day of the Congregations, perhaps 5 March?  And I’ll bet they’ll move it forward a few days.  These are suppositions, of course.] 
The congregations will be held in the new Synod Hall. The prelates will not be housed in the Casa Santa Marta residence until the eve of the beginning of the Conclave for various reasons, including the fact that rooms are to be assigned by lot during the congregations.

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  1. Bosco says:

    “A Bishop dressed in white…We thought it was the Pope” Lucia Dos Santos – The Third Secret of Fatima? One has to wonder.

  2. CatholicMD says:

    Seriously, the cardinals need to be sent a letter?

  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: “They need to be sent a letter?” There’s a certain way things are done. This is it. Also, this means that everybody can officially file the letter in their records. Filing the letter makes it more likely that, a thousand years from now, some copy of it will survive somewhere, and thus historians will be happy and people claiming Pope B was a myth will be confounded. Don’t mess with the power of Roman bureaucracy.

    Re: red shoes — Because they’re also a symbol of secular/temporal power vested in the Pope by his office.

  4. Prof. Basto says:


    Yes. Because it is a formal summons.

    So, the letter is not an invitation.

    It is more like a subpoena. Article 38 of the Constitution states that the Dean summons them invoking the bonds of sacred obedience…

    Thereafter, if they have an impediment, they need to justify it, and their excuse needs to be examined by the College in one of the preparatory General Congregations. The College then grants leave of absence or not.

    Cardinals who are granted leave of absence can enter the Conclave late if their impediment is removed. Cardinals who simply choose to ignore the summons cannot enter the Conclave after it starts. And by ignoring the summons they are also in a state of disobedience against Church law.

    So that’s the purpose of the formal letter. Of course all the Cardinals know what their job is, and that they need to come to Rome for the Congregations and the Conclave. But in order to be juridically bound to attend, they are formally summoned by letter.

  5. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    Father, the revised text of UDG 37 now reads:

    37. Praecipimus praeterea ut, ex quo Apostolica Sedes legitime vacat, antequam Conclave incohetur, mora sit interponenda quindecim solidorum dierum, facta tamen Cardinalium Collegio potestate Conclavis initium anticipandi, si constat omnes Cardinales electores adesse, vel etiam proferendi per aliquot dies, si graves obstant causae; tamen viginti diebus ad summum elapsis ab initio Sedis vacantis, cuncti Cardinales electores praesentes ad electionis negotium procedant.

    The rushed and unofficial English version in the press has been translated to say:

    37. I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipate the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.

    The words “Cardinales electores praesentes exspectent absentes” in the original UDG 37 were cut, however, from the amended text in the Latin, even though they are present in the (defective) unofficial English translation. Your Latin is far better than mine; doesn’t this look, though, like the College of Cardinals can move up the election only if all the Cardinal electors are present? Given that at least Cardinals Darmaatmadj and O’Brien have indicated they will not be present, wouldn’t that mean the Conclave cannot begin until March 16 at the earliest?

  6. Stumbler but trying says:

    The beautiful red shoes will be replaced by beautiful brown shoes hand made for Papa Benedict when he visited Leon Mexico. The region is famous for the shoes as they are considered some of the finest handmade in all the world.

    I felt such delight at that little piece of information:
    “The city of Leon is known for beautiful shoes, and very comfortable shoes. And when the Pope was asked what he wanted to wear he said, ‘I want the shoes from Leon in Mexico,’” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told journalists Feb. 26.

    To imagine those humble and saintly feet as they walk to and fro the Chapel to pray for us all…softly and quietly, lost in thought yet ever present to the One who made heaven and earth.
    Long live Pope Benedict XVI! I love you very much Papa!
    Que la Virgen de Guadalupe lo proteje siempre!

  7. Fr AJ says:

    Deacon, the two Cardinal-electors you mention are excused from the Conclave. There is no reason whatsoever to think these two are being prevented from going to the Conclave against their will, it is their own free choice not to attend.

  8. Laura98 says:

    @Bosco – I had the same thoughts when I read that!

    While it’s interesting to read all of this… it makes me sad too. I will really miss Pope Benedict XVI …

  9. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    Fr AJ, these two Cardinal electors, while they have announced their intentions not to attend the Conclave, are still bound by holy obedience to do so pursuant to UDG 39 “unless hindered by sickness” (Cardinal Darmaatmadja) “or some other grave impediment” (not sure O’Brien qualifies for this one), but even then, they are not excused unless the sickness or other grave impediment is recognized by the College of Cardinals — which can’t happen until the See is vacant. Even then, my point is the revised UDG 37 (in the original Latin) makes no provision for (legitimately) absent Cardinal electors in determining whether a Conclave can start early. On its face, it says a delay of 15 full days must take place unless all the Cardinal electors are present.

  10. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    Sorry, that should be UDG 38 instead of UDG 39.

  11. acardnal says:

    It’s important to remember paragraph #40 of UDG:

    “40. If a Cardinal with the right to vote should refuse to enter Vatican City in order to take part in the election, or subsequently, once the election has begun, should refuse to remain in order to discharge his office, without manifest reason of illness attested to under oath by doctors and confirmed by the majority of the electors, the other Cardinals shall proceed freely with the election, without waiting for him or readmitting him. If on the other hand a Cardinal elector is constrained to leave Vatican City because of illness, the election can proceed without asking for his vote; if however he desires to return to the place of the election, once his health is restored or even before, he must be readmitted.”

  12. CatholicMD says:

    Thanks for the replies everyone. I understand the protocols and the necessary formalities. I guess I’m just a little nervous with the amount of time between the Pope’s announcement of his retirement and the start of the conclave. I worry that more time will allow for more politicking and bureaucratic intrigue.

  13. Random Friar says:

    Yes, “Pontiff Emeritus” formally, but will we still call him “Pope Benedict XVI” or “Pope Benedict” after resignation? I’m trying to think of equivalents. Our former Presidents are normally called “President Bush/Clinton/etc” after their service is up, even though they have zero authority or executive power, as a sign of respect.

    We don’t get confused when we say “President Clinton” and assume Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton has staged a coup d’etat, but that we are referring to former President William J. Clinton. After his resignation, Pope Benedict would also have very little real legal authority or jurisdiction.

    And God grant him time to finish all the good books he’s always been wanting to write…

  14. jhayes says:

    “We don’t get confused when we say “President Clinton”

    Officially, he is “The Honorable Mr. William J. Clinton” plus, if you like, “the forty-second President of the United States” it’s only newspaper reporters who refer to him as “President Clinton”

    Official U.S. protocol is that you retain the title if you are one of many – once a Senator, always a Senator.

    But if the office is held by only one person at a time (President, Chief Justice, Governor, Mayor) you don’t keep the title.

  15. Tim Ferguson says:

    If he were to stay at Castel Gandolfo, and wear just a simple white cassock, would it be wrong to think of him as Papa Gandolfo the White?

  16. acardnal says:

    jhayes, perhaps I am wrong, but I assume you used this link for your reply above:

    Here is that same link’s response regarding Pope Benedict XVI:

    I note that Mr. Robert Hickey does not indicate how to address the “former” Pope Benedict XVI so perhaps he will update it soon based on the Holy See’s Press Office announcement today:
    “His Holiness, Benedict XVI”

  17. Simon_GNR says:

    I was a little suprised when I learned that Pope Benedict’s new title would be “Pontiff Emeritus”. My own view was that he should become “His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. To avoid any confusion, I would have favoured there being in Rome only one man whose title includes the word “Pontiff”. I’m not too sure it’s the best idea for him to remain in the Vatican, but he is in poor health and being in a big city with state of the art medical facilities on hand makes sense. I feel there’s a risk of the new Pope feeling uncomfortable and somehow constrained by having his predecessor on the doorstep. I had the idea that the ex-Pope Cardinal Ratzinger might return to his homeland in Bavaria and put himself at the disposal of the local bishop as a non-stipendiary assistant curate, to give a practical example of humility and self-effacing service to others.

  18. Johnny Domer says:

    I SO wish I had been there to see Fr. Z messing with that SSPX bishop! Oh my goodness, that is priceless. I laughed my rear end off when I read that.

  19. anna 6 says:

    Sadly, I don’t think that we will see or hear from him much, if at all. This is why I love that he is still in the vatican! He will be a powerful, albeit “hidden” servant of prayer for the new pope and the good of the Church.

    We will simply refer to him as Benedict XVI. Wearing the simple white cassock without the visual signs of authority seems appropriate .We shouldn’t try to erase the fact that he was the Pope. Though he no longer has the temporal authority, the graces of the office will remain.

    I love and trust Benedict, the Pope emeritus of Christian Unity.

  20. SPWang says:

    I was a little uneasy about this when I first read it but have thought about it. His ‘pontificate’ has come to and end, as a pontificate does when a Pope dies. When a Pope dies they are still referred to as Pope So-And-So not ‘Cardinal So-And-So’. Thats how I see it…I think…

  21. pseudomodo says:

    I wonder if, as a Bishop, he will be given a titular Bishopric?

  22. Jason Keener says:

    This is a small matter, but I wonder if Father Lombardi really meant that Pope Benedict XVI will wear the simple white casssock without the “pellegrina.” The “pellegrina” is the elbow-length shoulder cape attached to the cassock and is of the same color of the cassock. On the other hand, the mozzetta is a different type of shoulder cape worn with the rochet, usually as part of a prelate’s choir dress. The Pope has several different mozzettas, each one worn during a particular time of year and liturgical season. Incidentally, when the cassock is worn with the pellegrina, it is technically called a “simar,” from what I understand. This is all very interesting…

  23. Tom Ryan says:

    What is the lead seal?

  24. Deacon – think you are right, the amendment is poorly drafted. It clearly says that all cardinal electors must be present for the decision to begin the conclave early to be taken. A cardinal who isn’t coming for a good reason such as illness or scandal remains a cardinal elector. All cardinals under 80 are cardinal electors.

    Think we’ll get used to referring to him as “Benedict” just or Ratzinger as he’s often called in academic circles.

  25. bourgja says:

    I strongly agree with Simon_GNR’s view that upon abdication the former pope’s name and title should be “His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. The decision to retain the name and title “His Holiness Benedict XVI” supports my original uneasiness that this situation could create a division within the Church, in which one part prefers the old pontiff (even if he disavows that) and the other part the new.

  26. Jason Keener says:

    I strongly disagree with those who think Pope Benedict should be called Cardinal Ratzinger after his resignation takes effect. Benedict is no longer in the College of Cardinals, and his last post held was that of Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. It is only fitting that Benedict continue to be called “His Holiness,” “Holy Father,” and “Pope Benedict.” I do not think there will be one ounce of confusion about who the true Pope is just as there is no confusion who the true and current President of the United States is despite the fact that all former Presidents are still called President X. In any event, this is all probably a moot point because after the election of the new Supreme Pontiff, hopefully Cardinal Burke, we will probably not see Pope Benedict again. He is retiring to a well-deserved life of prayer and rest in a monastery.

  27. Charles E Flynn says:
  28. Tony from Oz says:

    Deacon et al.,

    Come the Sede Vacante period, the Congregation of the Cardinals must first decide whether or not to accept the reasons posited by Cardinals wishing to recuse themselves from attendance at the Conclave – in this case the Indonesian & Scottish cardinals, or any others that respond with a request that they be excused on account of a grave impediment – and then – assuming all Cardinals have arrived in Rome (and presupposing that the congregation accepts the requests to be excused received from any Cardinals) – the Congregation can decide on a date for commencement of the Conclave. But not before all this has been done, as I understand it.

    Mind you, under the circumstances, I cannot imagine that permission not to attend would not be be extended to either Cardinal and be ratified the Cardinals’ Congregation. A likelier delay to determining a commencement date for the conclave would probably be due to actual delays in the arrival of all the Cardinals in Rome. But even that should not be an issue of course, given that all have known of the date of the Sede Vacante for over 2 weeks.

  29. Giuseppe says:

    Simon and Bourgja – I don’t think the pope is a cardinal any more unless he is named so by the new pope. I wish he were going to be referred to as Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI of Rome and to be given a titular see somewhere in Germany. Bishop Benedict sounds so dignified, and is less confusing than 2 popes, although the church managed at one time with 3 popes, so it will soldier on.

  30. Dave N. says:

    I was saddened to see the “Pope Emeritus” title as well as all false equivalencies made to secular elected officials of varying types—as if this is somehow just some simple administrative matter. There’s only one pope at a time, and that fact should always be made absolutely crystal clear. I am also a bit uneasy with the current Pope granting himself the title.

    Wars have been fought over less.

  31. Geoffrey says:

    The comparisons between former presidents and elected politicians does not really fit this situation, which is actually more like the abdication of a monarch. In such rare cases, former monarchs are given a specific title to differentiate themselves from other members of the royal family, etc. “Duke of Windsor” comes to mind.

    The Pope will always be “Benedict XVI”, with the style of “His Holiness” and the titles “Pope Emeritus” and “Roman Pontiff Emeritus” being what would be considered “courtesy titles”.

  32. robtbrown says:

    Tony from Oz,

    My reading of Universi Dominici Gregis is that permission is not needed for a Cardinal not to attend. He may simply refuse.

  33. robtbrown says:

    Geoffrey says:

    The Pope will always be “Benedict XVI”, with the style of “His Holiness” and the titles “Pope Emeritus” and “Roman Pontiff Emeritus” being what would be considered “courtesy titles”.

    I don’t think they are courtesy titles. Retired bishops, who by their retirement no longer had jurisdiction in their own diocese, were once given titular sees. Now they are episcopi emeriti.

  34. Random Friar says:

    Re: Presidential Addresses

    The White House office and the President himself (and I believe presidents before him), have addressed their successors as “President [name]”. See: .

    I am not proposing a formal title for the emeritus pontiff. I am wondering more of an informal way of speaking about him, among folks, even us clergy. Even in day-to-day speech, I most often hear “President Bush,” for example. I understand it is more correlated to the European monarchical forms, but that is not how we talk in everyday life.

  35. Random Friar says:

    Dave N.: The future pope can certainly rescind the title! But this was also done in consultation with the respective offices, etc, in the Vatican.

  36. jhayes says:

    Random Friar, here’s what the book says about titles of former US presidents

  37. Random Friar says:

    jhayes: I understand the proper protocol, but in practice, I have not heard any gov’t official that I can recall address a former president by anything other than “President [name]”, unless he were only using their given name, e.g., “George Bush and I went golfing at Camp David last weekend.”

  38. Random Friar says:

    jhayes: Please see the White House website for President Obama’s speech, in which he, and not any member of the media, addressed Mr. Clinton in the same room as himself as “President Clinton.”

  39. jhayes says:

    I think the President can call him anything he wants – but people who work for the government have to follow the book.

  40. Random Friar says:

    I’ve worked for the gov’t. Trust me, “have to” and “do” are not always the same.
    In the title they address Mr. and Mrs. Clinton:

    Statement by President Clinton and Secretary Clinton on the Passing of Howard Paster

    Neither he nor she wrote the title. In various gov’t websites, one finds normally “President” or “former President” when speaking of the former presidents. Now, I doubt the Sergeant-at-arms of the Senate would call him “President Clinton” if he were to address Congress.

    I am not so much concerned with the regulation, as with the rule of common usage.

  41. magister63 says:

    “The elbow-length cape is a sign of jurisdiction, it isn’t just for warmth or decoration. I once ran into an SSPX bishop at a Roman clerical tailor and asked him what the little shoulder cape meant (of course I already knew)… he got pretty mad. But I digress…”
    I am just curious as to what Bishop Gänswein’s jurisdiction is, as he wears this?

  42. jesusthroughmary says:

    I propose that for Benedict’s new coat of arms, he should keep the keys but remove the mitre and pallium, replacing them with a white galero with 21 tassels.

    Does anybody know what his new coat of arms will actually be?

    [Good question. I will ask around and see what information I can find.]

  43. jesusthroughmary says:

    magister63 says:
    27 February 2013 at 5:26 pm
    I am just curious as to what Bishop Gänswein’s jurisdiction is, as he wears this?

    Somebody who reads this blog knows the answer, I am certain. Does a titular bishop legally have jurisdiction? That is my best guess.

  44. bourgja says:

    Giuseppe: I accept your critique and revise my preference to “Most Rev. Joseph Ratzinger, bishop emeritus of Rome.”

  45. Marcio A. Campos says:

    Instead of a white cassock with no cape, I would have preferred for Benedict a black cassock with white trim, plus a white fascia and white zucchetto. Would there be anything wrong with this? [ehem… well… hmmm…]

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