Benedict XVI resigns tomorrow and starts his new life as an ex-pope. The question of what to do with a former pope has proven to be a thorny one for some of the folks at the Vatican. The question provokes me to alter a bit of Shakespeare.
O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a Pope
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Benedict would, were he not Benedict call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.
Originally, the Church wasn’t sure what they’d call Benedict after the resignation. Some speculated that he’d have to give up the name Benedict and that his official title would be “emeritus bishop of Rome.” Benedict himself, however, decided that he’d continue with the name Benedict and that he would be referred to as “emeritus pope” or “emeritus Roman pontiff.” Curiously, he seems to have given up the “bishop of Rome” title completely. When you run into him, you should continue to address him as “Your Holiness.” In the Vatican, a rose will continue to be called a “rose.”
Not only will the rose’s name not change, neither will its petals. Originally, the Vatican suggested that Benedict would give up his white robes for the black robes of a priest, but the latest word is that Benedict will continue to don the white. I suppose this might be a cost saving decision. Why buy a whole new wardrobe? However, Benedict will change his costume a bit to reflect his retirement. He’ll give up his trademark red shoes in favor of plain brown ones. Still a rose, but no longer in full bloom, I suppose.
I think Benedict will be gracious in retirement, allowing the new pope room to be the pope. But it could be awkward for the new guy having Benedict still hanging around. It’s not the kind of thing a pope usually has to worry about. Benedict will continue to live at the Vatican, and his private apartment will have a view of St. Peter’s. His personal secretary will pull double duty, serving both Benedict and his successor. I hope, however, the pope and emeritus pope will each let the other enjoy his new position.