But in an interesting turn of events, the Holy See may soon be getting two popes, de facto (in practice) and de jure (by law.) And concerns are mounting as to just how much influence the retired pope will continue to wield over his successor and whether his proximity could pose a threat to the new pope’s authority.
Also at issue is whether the two popes could divide the world’s roughly 1.2 billion Roman Catholics who might be conflicted as to whom to pledge their loyalty.
Right now the plan is for the 85-year-old pontiff, who served eight years as pope, to continue to live in the Vatican following a period of retirement at the palace of Castel Gandolfo. The pope spent summers at the castle, which serves as the traditional papal summer residence and is located in a small lake town south of Rome.
Eventually, however, the pope will return to the Vatican to take up residence in newly refurbished apartments located adjacent to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, which is located just yards from St. Peters. Founded in 1992 by Pope Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, the monastery serves as a contemplative retreat.
The four-story building is home to 12 cells, a chapel and library and sits on the northern edge of the Vatican gardens. The renovated apartments will house the pope and his staff.
In other news, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales confirmed Monday that following his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI will resume his old name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Other Vatican spokesmen indicate, however, the pope’s new name will likely be 'Bishop of Rome, Emeritus.' Each new pope chooses a papal name as his first act of accepting the papacy.
The Vatican was quick to stress that the Pope will be retiring in full. To underscore this point, the Pope’s papal ring will be destroyed. The unique fisherman's ring is received by each pope upon his appointment and symbolizes his direct succession from St. Peter, a fisherman and first bishop of Rome. It is destroyed upon the pope's death.
Just a day after the announcement, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, one of the leading contenders to be the first black Pope, launched a campaign to offer a member of the developing world the new papacy.
Now begins a six-week period during which a conclave of 117 cardinals will work to elect a new pontiff. They plan to do so by the end of March.