Papal updates – with a dash of confusion

A few days back it was reported on, and duly reported here, that Cardinal Cocopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, had announced that Pope Benedict’s style in retirement would be “His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Bishop-Emeritus of Rome”. It all seemed very sensible and fitting.

Today the Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, informed a press conference that the style in retirement would be “His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus”. But he said it could also be “His Holiness, Benedict XVI, Pontiff Emeritus”. So, it appears he will not be a Bishop Emeritus, but a Pope Emeritus… or is it Pontiff Emeritus? It seems he is not quite sure. In which case, I am not sure why he was making this announcement. “Pontiff-Emeritus” sounds, to be quite honest, a little off-key, and Pope-Emeritus sounds almost equally discordant. Cardinal Cocopalmerio’s version made so much sense. Which is right? Who knows!

Other details he revealed were either rather obvious or a little trivial. Benedict will no longer wear the Fisherman’s Ring, which will be destroyed as it would after a reigning pope’s death. He will no longer wear the mozetta, which, while a  decorous symbol of authority, it is one so unfamiliar to the majority of the faithful as to make its singling out a tad de trop. Likewise was the revelation that he would no longer wear red shoes. A little more newsworthy was that from the moment the abdication takes effect Benedict’s close security will be in the hands of the Vatican Gendarmerie rather than the Swiss Guard.

Fr Lombardi gave a strong hint that the conclave might even commence next week. I am taking this with a small dose of salt given the quality of the rest of the announcements he made, especially the uncertainty as to Benedict’s post-abdication style. In fact the press conference, at least as reported, struck me as quite unenlightening. Does poor Fr Lombardi feel he has to hold a conference every day? Or has he been told to do so? If so, it is not very media-savvy to announce trivia and vagaries and confusions.

Che strano…

8 thoughts on “Papal updates – with a dash of confusion

  1. Salve Pater,

    Che strano indeed.

    I wonder if Fr. Frederico Lombardi S.J. was speaking off the cuff at the press conference. This certainly seems to contradict Cardinal Cocopalmerio’s earlier announcement.

    Frankly, I would have thought a pain black cassock, with a bishop’s ring and pectoral cross, more suitable to a cloistered life lived in seclusion.

    Whether the former pope will wear a “plain white cassock”, as they are saying, rather than a papal simar, with half sleeves, really makes no difference. Pope John Paul II usually wore a plain white cassock.

    I think this is sending a very mixed message, but then I half suspected the Vatican, in its incompetent way, would confuse things, and so it has !

    Oh well, I suppose we must wait and see what really happens after 28 February.

    Pax et bonum



    1. Salve Petre!

      Perhaps Fr L was speaking off the cuff – it certainly looks like he had no script. I confess I am one of those who think that having once sat on Peter’s throne there can be no return to black. White, in simple cut, seems eminently suitable. But obviously this a matter on which there can be a legitimate variety of views, however poor the taste they reveal. :-p

      The new pope will really have to get the PR side of things in order. It is so prone to shooting first and asking questions later.

      I’m dreading Thursday…

      Pax tibi.


      1. I suppose I too am dreading Thursday, and the loss of the beloved Holy Father. I feel bereaved, but it seems a strange form of bereavement . I hope I can embrace the new pope and say, truthfully, “Sancte Pater”.

        I rather think the new pope will have to get the Curia in order : a daunting task indeed. The regnal name Leo seems not inappropriate

        As to what Benedict XVI will wear, the questions, inevitably, will get sillier. No red shoes ? What about his socks, then ? A capello romano for the Roman sun ? Certainly, but a papal saturno, or the ordinary kind ? What about the fascia, etc., etc.

        Au fond, I suppose prayer is the only thing. A prayer for the former pope for what he has done. A prayer for the new pope for the terrible burden he will assume.


      2. Thankfully, the Holy Father seems intent on being inconspicuous in his retirement so sartorial issues should not feature too often (though the fewer the sightings, the more enthused the reactions I suspect).

        Leo XIV would be nice – a fine papal name. Pius XIII too. But I am rather hoping for Benedict XVII.

        Let us hold fast to what we have so much to give thanks for in this pontificate. I remembering saying at his election, his age being cited with concern, that if we could get 5 years from him I would be satisfied. We have had 8 years. Deo gratias.


  2. No red shoes…..what a let-down that must be.

    I agree that “Bishop-Emeritus of Rome” sounds both beautiful and humble (and frankly, for the general population of Catholics) also a bit catechetical.

    I know that there are many people who revel in these “Martha Stewart” -like details. I just hope they don’t give the general world an idea that our Church is a Church of triviality.


    1. I agree, Annie, that the spectacle of a press conference devoted to the more obscure details might strike the neutral non-Catholic reader as straining at gnats. As you imply, we are about more than that. Not that I think the details are without their place. But in the context of a press conference, some of the details could have appeared very much like trivia indeed.

      Maybe we will get a nice meaty press conference tomorrow!



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