VATICAN CITY — The Vatican settled the question of what you call a retired pontiff by announcing Tuesday that after he steps down from office later this week, Pope Benedict XVI will bear the title “pope emeritus” or “Roman pontiff emeritus.”
The outgoing pope will also continue to be addressed as “His Holiness” and will keep the name Benedict XVI rather than return to being called Joseph Ratzinger. He will still be robed in white, a simple cassock with no adornments. But Benedict, an inveterate shoe lover, will swap his red shoes for brown ones that he spotted and liked in Mexico.
The pope’s post-retirement title and attire have been the subject of excited speculation by Vatican watchers, who have raised all manner of questions — some arcane, some more pressing — about what happens when a pope resigns. Benedict is the first pontiff to step down in about 600 years, meaning there is no playbook for such an event.
The decision on the title and his outfit was made by the pope himself in consultation with other church officials, the Vatican said.
Benedict’s last day as head of the Roman Catholic Church is Thursday. The Vatican said he is spending the final days of his papacy in prayer and reflection, with few meetings on his schedule.
On Wednesday, he is to hold his final general audience, which is being moved to St. Peter’s Square to accommodate the expected crowds. Vatican officials said 50,000 tickets have already been requested, and more visitors are likely to show up without tickets.
The Vatican also said the church’s cardinals would not meet until Monday to decide when to hold the conclave to elect Benedict’s successor. Earlier this week, the pope amended the rules to allow the conclave to start earlier than the 15 to 20 days that was previously the official waiting period after the papacy became vacant.