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How To Address Benedict XVI Now?


I've heard many different things about the status of Pope Ratzinger - how he should be addressed, what he is supposed to wear, the titles he still retains, the life he will have etc.

Could you clarify these points to me through your channels?

God bless you!


TIA responds:


There has been much confusion since Benedict XVI’s announcement on February 11, 2013, that he was resigning from the papal office. It is probable that this confusion will only increase with two Popes living on the Vatican grounds, which should happen soon. What came to our knowledge so far is the following:

1.Regarding the name of Benedict XVI and the papal title: He will continue to be called by his papal name of Benedict XVI, rather than reverting to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He will continue to be addressed as "Your Holiness" - in the same way, for example, as U.S. presidents continue to be referred to as "president" after leaving office. Officially he will be referred to as “Pope emeritus,” or “Roman Pontiff emeritus,” the Vatican announced on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

2.Regarding his clothing: The “Pope emeritus” will continue to wear the papal white cassock - rather than the black cassock with a red belt and zucchetto or the full red of a cardinal. It will be, however, a simple cassock, without the white cape. This supposedly will distinguish him from the new Pope Francis. He will be giving up his trademark red shoes.

mater ecclesiae monastery, Benedict's residence


Mater Ecclesiae Monastery is in the Vatican's backyard...

3.Regarding his residence: It has been announced that he will retire to Mater Ecclesiae Monastery located in the Vatican Gardens almost linked to the building that hosts the Vatican Radio (see picture at right circled in red). So, ex-Pope Ratzinger will be living within walking distance of the new Pope Francis, who is working at the Vatican Palace. This monastery was built in 1992 for cloistered nuns whose specific mission was to pray for the Pope. The nuns vacated the building in October of 2012, for renovations, which were still ongoing when Benedict decided to move there. Now it is being adapted to receive him.

Until this reform is completed, Benedict will stay at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, the traditional summer residence for Popes some 30 miles southeast of Rome. It is not yet clear for how long the Pope Emeritus will stay at that Vatican Monastery. There are mixed talks in this regard: some say he will stay there until his death, others are pressuring him not to stay at the Vatican in order to avoid confusion - two Popes at the same place. Wherever he will stay, he supposedly will have no other function except prayer and meditation.

4. Regarding his household: A little before Benedict's resignation he made his personal secretary, Msgr. Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household. After Benedict's resignation, Ganswein continues to be his secretary and assist him in his personal needs. So far, he is also keeping up the official role of Prefect for the Papal Household for Pope Francis. It is not clear why Benedict, on the edge of stepping down from the Papacy, gave Ganswein that position. Did he want Ganswein to be his messenger to the new Pope - Pope Francis? Did he want to keep a strong German presence near Pope Francis to garantee its guidelines would be followed? Since it appears that Benedict will not have the right to keep an official Papal Household, the presence of Ganswein looks very much as an imposition on the new Pope. It remains to be seen the development of this curious double-function of Archbishop Ganswein.

5. Regarding his duties: It was said that Benedict XVI will have no further administrative or official duties. He did not participate in the conclave to elect his successor (nor did any cardinal over the age of 80). This is another point to be watched since, contrary to what was announced, Benedict’s brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger has already stated to the press that Benedict would be happy to advise his successor, if his opinions are sought. This shows that the retirement to a life of prayer may not be the only goal of Pope Ratzinger.

6. Regarding infallibility: It is a widely held misconception that the Pope is infallible in everything he says and does. But, Pius IX and the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) determined a Pope's teachings are infallible only when they are made "ex-cathedra" - a very rare official and solemn statement intended to define a truth as being a part of the Revelation, which all Catholic are obliged to believe. In his eight years of pontificate, Benedict XVI never invoked this privilege. After his resignation, the Vatican officially affirmed that from now on Benedict XVI cannot make any infallible pronouncement.

We hope these expalnations give you the requested clarification.


     TIA correspondence desk


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted April 4, 2013


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