QUAERITUR: What will the former Pope’s coat-of-arms look like?

From a reader in the combox under another entry:

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.

I have not heard anything about this yet.  This proposal, however, seems reasonable.

This is a rather new situation.  In the case of the last abdication/resignation, Gregory XII went back to being a cardinal.  In this case, Pope Benedict (I can still write that for a few more hours) will be (how strange to write this…) “Roman Pontiff Emeritus”.  Thus, he can’t have the pallium.  He changed the tiara to a miter, so it seems that should be removed.  The galero, used but in white, could be a good compromise.

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  1. Titus says:

    Hmmm, I think the keys would be a particularly inappropriate element, being, as they are, an emblem of the Petrine ministry. I reserve judgment on a white galero.

  2. greasemonkey says:

    I would prefer that it be left alone… I feel like some of this stuff smacks of nullifying his papacy. Why change his coat of arms. To that end the question of his future funeral comes to mind. I think that it would be totally appropriate for him to be laid out in the papal vestments, pallium, fanon, and all with the ruling pope celebrating it.

  3. Phil_NL says:


    One doesn’t rule out the other. It may (or may not, depending on how low a profile BXVI will actually keep) be convenient for him to have a coat of arms for the remainder of his life. He would certainly be deserving of the honor of having one, yet it would be confusing to have the symbols of authority on them. There can be only one pope on this earth. But none of these considerations would rule out that, upon his funeral – may it be many years away still – he would be laid out in the highest honors he had achieved during his lifetime, which are of course the papal insignia.

    And I’d be sorely disappointed and utterly surprised if the new pontiff wouldn’t be the celebrant. No need to worry on that front, I’d say.

  4. greasemonkey says:

    I just don’t see how there can be any REAL confusion regarding who the ruling pope is vis a vis his coat of arms.

  5. ghp95134 says:

    But those items (miter, pallium, keys, galero; etc.) are externals — none of which are integral to his coat of arms. The coat of arms is the shield alone. All the other elements add up to what is called his heraldic achievements.

    –Guy Power

  6. In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI did much more than did Pope John Paul II when it came to the traditional Mass and the Liturgy in general. In his (relatively) short pontificate, he moved more quickly when it came to certain things. And he will **forever** be remembered as the Pope who freed the traditional Mass (even though it had never been abrogated) by both traditionalists and liberals alike.

    Nevertheless, once he made his choice to renounce the Papacy, it seems a bit “sentimental” to keep thinking of him as Pope by wanting to preserve for him (some) external signs of the fact that he was once Pope. True, in the past, the situation was different because the death of the Pontiff put an end to all of that. However, as he himself said when he renounced the Apostolic See, he was fully aware of what he did.

    Not that anything can be changed now, I guess, but it is a bit “awkward” that he was allowed to retain the title of “Pope Benedict XVI” given that he only took that name at the moment he was elevated to the Papacy. Being that he gave that up consciously and fully aware of what he was doing, the name of Benedict should have also been given up since that name, I would imagine, would only last as long as his Papacy did.

    In fact, in the past, when the Popes only stopped being Popes due to the inevitability of death, when they needed to confirm ceremonially that the Pope was dead, they used his baptismal name, not his Papal name. I would imagine that the reason for this was, not that he was dead in itself, but because his papacy was over (or assumed to be over if he was not really dead when his forehead was hit with a little hammer).

    The same goes for everything that he was allowed to use and wear once he became Pope. Being that the Pope along is the one who creates and uncreates Cardinals, it would seem that when a Pope abdicates, he would still be considered a Cardinal (his last highest honor/office/status) before elevation to the See of Peter. That being the case, the more traditional thing would have been for Joseph Ratzinger to go back to being Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and to wearing and using what Cardinals wear/use.

    It would hardly be considered a “demotion” give that no one can demote a Pope unless he does that himself … and in this case, he decided to do so (for whatever valid reasons he may have had).

    White Galero? 21 tassels?

  7. MAJ Tony says:

    Perhaps the best course of action is to place the papal elements (keys, pallium, papal mitre, etc.) within the shield, which would be the personal arms indicating the achievements of Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger. This would require a fourth element (there are three in the original), that would properly be in the center or upper middle of the shield. As the former pontiff is still a bishop, he is still entitled to a mitre, just not the papal mitre at crest; however, since Catholic prelates, save the reigning Pope, don’t place mitres at crest, I have to agree that a white galero would be apropos.

    Here’s a link on ecclesiastic heraldry. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07243a.htm

  8. Giuseppe says:

    Latinmass1983 –

    I too am somewhat surprised Pope Benedict is retaining his title, albeit as Pope-Emeritus. I would have preferred he have simply kept the title Bishop Emeritus of Rome with the salutation of his holiness and his papal name, rather than his Christian name: His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop Emeritus of Rome. The word and title “Pope” should go to only one man.

    I disagree that he is still a cardinal. He stopped being a cardinal when he became Pope. He will always be a bishop.

    Re heraldry – I would have kept the mitre, even with 3 bars, but would have removed the keys. Or placed them on his shield so they appear much smaller and less prominent.

    But, also, if I ruled the world, it would only rain after midnight and stop by 4 a.m.

  9. jesusthroughmary says:

    I think moving the keys onto the shield is a good idea, but I think he should somehow keep them as an acknowledgment that he is currently the only living person to have held the keys of Peter. Giuseppe is correct that he is still a bishop and is entitled to a mitre, but as every other bishop has a galero as a symbol of his office in heraldry, and the mitre with pallium is a uniquely papal heraldic achievement (albeit a newly invented one), I would say going back to a galero better reflects his current rank in the church. And a white galero with 21 tassels, although an innovation, reflects his rank ahead of the cardinals but subordinate to the Pope.

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