As Pope Benedict XVI ends a series of “finals” to everything he did as Pope and retired today, he put himself into the history books as the first pope in over 600 years to do what the rest of us all eventually do….retire.
According to Catholic Tradition, retiring is virtually unheard of, making him somewhat of a “rebel” and since it hasn’t happened for over 600 years, no one even knew what to call him after retirement or what the protocol is or should be.
While most of us who retire, receive something like a watch, a pen a dinner or something for our years of service, Pope Benedict will actually be stripped of a few things.
Firstly, he’ll be stripped of his title. While he won’t have to return to his birth name, Joseph Ratzinger, he will be referred to as “pope emeritus”. While he’ll have to give up the title, “Bishop of Rome”, he will still be called “his holiness”.
He’ll also have to give up his Papal Ring or, fishermen’s ring. Apparently, the ring, also used as a seal, will be destroyed with a special silver hammer, usually only done once a pope’s life has ended.
And, as if that wasn’t enough for the man to have to give up, he will also stop wearing the red shoes that popes traditionally wear. He’s agreed to wear brown shoes instead. (Just when red shoes are coming back into fashion. Move over Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, there’s a lot of red shoe controversy out there.)
The poor man’s won’t be able to Tweet for awhile either as his Twitter account @Pontifex and it’s 8 other accounts, will be shut down from the moment he retires until a new pontif has been chosen by the conclave. That will leave some nearly three million Twitter followers without a way to Tweet his holiness even though he only Tweeted 38 times throughout his papacy. He won’t be able to keep the @Pontifex as that will be reserved only for the newly chosen pope.
No ring, no Twitter, no red shoes and right now, the pope emeritus is having to live at the papal summer home Castel Gandolfo, which is situated about 25 kilometres south of Rome because the area alotted to him in a monastary within The Vatican is being renovated. No ring, no Twitter, no red shoes and no permanent residence yet. Finally, he will also be giving up soul custody of his personal secretary, Archbishop George Gaenswein and will share him with the new pope. We can all see where that one will eventually lead.
What a way to be sent out.
The eighty-five year old Benedict has stated that he will live out the rest of his life, “hidden from the world” in a life of prayer.
Perhaps, Benedict’s retirement is a wake-up call for the Catholic Church. Perhaps, this pope has unknowingly paved a road of slow change. That is yet to be seen.
Whatever comes along for the face of Catholicism, one thing is for certain. Changes happen and will continue to happen. Things cannot remain the same forever and the Catholic Religion is not an exemption to change even though it’s fought against it for centuries.
Perhaps, Benedict has become a Rebel With A Cause without knowing it?
Only time will tell.