Daniel Doherty

Considering the last time the bishop of Rome resigned his office was before Columbus discovered the New World, many are wondering what exactly the faithful will call him when he steps down later this week. According to the Associated Press, there’s been much speculation, but it seems Benedict himself has chosen “emeritus pope” as his official title:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI will be known as "emeritus pope" in his retirement and will continue to wear a white cassock, the Vatican announced Tuesday, again fueling concerns about potential conflicts arising from having both a reigning and a retired pope.

The pope's title and what he would wear have been a major source of speculation ever since Benedict stunned the world and announced he would resign on Thursday, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Benedict himself had made the decision in consultation with others, settling on "Your Holiness Benedict XVI" and either emeritus pope or emeritus Roman pontiff.

Lombardi said he didn't know why Benedict had decided to drop his other main title: bishop of Rome.

In the two weeks since Benedict's resignation announcement, Vatican officials had suggested that Benedict would likely resume wearing the traditional black garb of a cleric and would use the title "emeritus bishop of Rome" so as to not create confusion with the future pope.

Benedict's decision to call himself emeritus pope and to keep wearing white is sure to fan concern voiced privately by some cardinals about the awkward reality of having two popes, both living within the Vatican walls.

Benedict will spend the rest of his life in retirement “hidden from the world” in prayer, although he will still live in the Vatican. But his final 48 hours as head of the Catholic Church will be anything but tranquil:

Lombardi also further described Benedict's final 48 hours as pope: On Tuesday, he was packing, arranging for documents to be sent to the various archives at the Vatican and separating out the personal papers he will take with him into retirement.

On Wednesday, Benedict will hold his final public general audience in St. Peter's Square — an event that has already seen 50,000 ticket requests. He won't greet visiting prelates or VIPs as he normally does at the end but will greet some visiting leaders — from Slovakia, San Marino, Andorra and his native Bavaria — privately afterwards.

On Thursday, the pope meets with his cardinals in the morning and then flies by helicopter at 5 p.m. to Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence south of Rome. He will greet parishioners there from the palazzo's loggia (balcony) — his final public act as pope.

And at 8 p.m., the exact time at which his retirement becomes official, the Swiss Guards standing outside the doors of the palazzo at Castel Gandolfo will go off duty, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church now finished.

Benedict's personal security will be assured by Vatican police, Lombardi said.

The College of Cardinals will meet Monday to discuss “various issues” within the Catholic Church, and to set a start date for the conclave to begin.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography