Romereports.com 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…..