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…