Announced – Pope Benedict’s title and style after his abdication has reported Cardinal Cocopalmerio’s (President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts) announcement of how Pope Benedict will styled and addressed after his abdication takes effect at 8pm, Roman time, on 28 February. From that moment he will become:

His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop-Emeritus of Rome

This makes a great deal of sense. It acknowledges the permanent mark the papacy must surely leave on a man (not sacramental, but real nevertheless). It is not a job one can lay down and then return to one’s former state. So his papal state is confirmed by his continued appellation, “Holiness”. The enduring mark made on him by his role as Successor to St Peter is confirmed by his retaining his papal name, Benedict XVI. Yet, that there might be no confusion between him and his successor, who will be the reigning Pope with all that this entails, he will be Bishop-Emeritus of Rome, not a Pope-Emeritus. Only one man living can hold the office and title of Pope. It is a finely balanced solution which surely will sit well with the faithful.

It is to be hoped, indeed prayed for, that Pope Benedict will continue to write after his abdication takes effect. My desire, though it may be too late, is that he write a commentary on the Second Vatican Council. Whatever he writes will have a unique status I would have thought: not, indeed, the magisterial decrees of a reigning pope (though, of course, neither was his trilogy Jesus of Nazareth, magisterial though it was in the more common sense of the word), but surely of more weight than any mere theologian or even bishop. A conciliar commentary from his pen, from one who was there and in the thick of it all, and one who has been Chief Pastor of the post-conciliar Church, would have immense authority and help reclaim the Council for the Church rather than its more doctrinaire advocates, and place the Council in its proper historical and doctrinal context.

Of course, if he is re-elected by the conclave in March, he will not have much time for that. It is a tough call: pray for Pope Benedict to be re-elected, or to pray for more sound teaching from his pen in a freer retirement.

Oh, what the hell…..

7 thoughts on “Announced – Pope Benedict’s title and style after his abdication

  1. Salve Pater,

    This is most interesting news. Frankly, I find it rather confusing ! I think I understand the following :

    After the Pope’s renuntiatio takes effect at 8 pm. on 28 February, the See of Peter will be sede vacante. Within 15 – 20 days after that date a conclave of cardinal electors must be convoked to elect a successor. The new Pope will be styled “His Holiness”, and will take a title. He will be the Pope, Bishop of Rome, successor of St. Peter.

    So far, so good.

    I now become a lttle confused !

    There can only be one Pope. Therefore Benedict XVI would be an ex-pope, so to speak. (No, I don’t like the expression “ex-pope”, either, but I can’t think of another at the moment.) However, Benedict will retain his papal style, “His Holiness, Benedict XVI”. Does this mean he will rank above a cardinal, but below the new Pope ? If he publishes any new writings, what name would he use ? How would he sign his letters ? Benedict XVI, not Benedict XVI, pp ? He (presumably) will cease using his papal coat of arms. I wonder what they will put on his notepaper. These questions go on and on, possibly becoming more insignificant as they do so, until they are just plain daft.

    Meanhile, this holy old man will be living simply and quietly, in a life of prayer. Having renounced the Petrine ministry, he is hardly likely to exercise any other, in any form.

    Oh dear. I said it was confusing !

    Pax et bonum



    1. Salve Petrus! As the Italians would say, calmati. It is not so bad. 🙂

      Benedict will retain his papal style indeed, but without the use of Pope in his title or address. He will certainly rank above a cardinal, having ceased to be a cardinal and become something greater. And certainly he will rank below his successor, since no earthly human can rank above the Vicar of Christ. So you are spot on, no “pp” in his signature. His coat of arms will have to amended to reflect his papal status without his papal office. I am sure he will not worry about this, but the appropriate officials will sort it.

      A good parallel is that of Queen Mothers in Britain. The previous Queen Mother, who had been Queen, kept her style of “Her Majesty”, the title Queen (with the addition of “Mother”), and all the rights and privileges that pertained thereto. But she certainly ranked below her daughter, but above any prince. We are not used to this in the Church, but the protocols for such a situation are well established. Since the papacy is technically a monarchy, it will I imagine adopt the appropriate royal protocols, as evidenced with the recent announcement.

      Or in other words – give it time and it will begin to feel OK!

      Pax semper!


      1. How can you suggest that Benedict be re-elected? Any true follower of the papacy accepts that every utterance from the papal lips is not to be challenged, whether on faith, morals, discipline or any other ecclesiastical topic. Was he wrong to resign? It is disrespectful to call his judgment into question rather than accepting it with submission of the intellect and will. If he has made a mistake, then perhaps he has made others. That we cannot accept, Father, or can we?


  2. You obviously have little understanding of papal infallibility. Applying papal infallibility to a pope’s every act, utterance and opinion on any subject is something that would be forgiveable in a child, but not in an informed Catholic. His judgement in this matter may well be fine, on logical grounds, and I have no doubt it is. His action in abdicating certainly has authority about it, but not infallibility. The conclave may show him that God’s will is otherwise.

    Obviously the pope has made mistakes before. But not in matters of faith and morals. That’s the teaching; and it has proved true so far.

    Or of course, your words may be sarcastic, what the e-world calls trolling. If so….


  3. The phenomenon is known as creeping infallibility and perhaps I should have referred to it openly rather than obliquely, to avoid the suspicion of sarcasm! Numbers of the simple faithful have been bemused by the pope’s decision to resign as they have been encouraged to believe uncritically that everything he says is true. Pope Benedict XVI is a humble man and rejects such subservience – at least as far as this decision of his goes.


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