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  • John Thavis

"His Holiness Benedict XVI, pope emeritus"

The Vatican today answered some of the nagging questions hanging over the papal resignation, including the title Pope Benedict will carry after he leaves office.

“His Holiness Benedict XVI, pope emeritus” or “Roman pontiff emeritus” is the proper way to address the retired pope, the Jesuit spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters.

On a practical level, it’s an issue that few people are expected to face, since the pope has said he plans to live behind the Vatican walls and avoid public appearances.

Father Lombardi said the pope would wear a “simple white cassock” after retiring. His famous red shoes will be set aside in favor of a pair of brown shoes he was given last year in Leon, Mexico – a city known for its footwear industry.

As expected, Benedict’s fisherman ring and the seal of his pontificate will be destroyed; how and when will be determined by the College of Cardinals.

The pope’s final public appearance will be a greeting to faithful in Castel Gandolfo, where the pope will arrive for an approximately two-month stay on the day of his resignation, Feb. 28. In another symbolic step, the Swiss Guards who serve the pope will leave their post outside the Castel Gandolfo villa at 8 p.m., the precise hour of papal resignation.

The Vatican spokesman said that during the countdown to resignation, the pope was receiving messages “of gratitude and understanding” from people all over the world, including many heads of state.

Meanwhile, efforts were being made to coordinate prayers among Catholics around the world on resignation day.

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