Pope Benedict XVI retires tomorrow and already the protocol of the Vatican has gone into overdrive to cater for that retirement. He will be addressed as Your Holiness; officially will be referred to as Benedict XVI, Pontifex Emeritus; will continue to wear the white cassock but with brown cobblers shoes; and will live in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the Vatican Gardens so that he can be continue to be guarded by the Pontifica Cohors Helvetic (Swiss Guards).
It appears that the Bishop of Rome (and Kilfenora in Ireland), theological faculties fully intact, does not intend to go quietly into the umbraculum of the night judging by his unscripted farewell audience with the priests of the diocese of Rome on the difficulties he has had with the developments in the Church as a consequence of Vatican II. According to his own recollection, his involvement was pivotal and he knows the truth of what was intended. He informed his priests that in his opinion we (and they!) have all been living in a ‘virtual’ rendition of faith since Vatican II; the consequence of a alpha-omega war of the worlds between the verisimilar ‘council of the Fathers’ and a virtual ‘council of journalists’ in a hermeneutic battle of interpretation. But thankfully, according to the Holy Father, in echoes of Nicaea and Ephesus, these journalists, these purveyors of ‘calamities’, are now ‘breaking down’ and the ‘true’ interpretation is emerging.
Sede vacant he is not, or likely to be, and Pope Benedict has ensured his successor’s dung chair will be a hot one. Also there is likely to be a rush on every morning between the German and his successor to throw the towels of faith over the deckchairs by the ornamental pool.
Deckchairs brings me to armchairs or arms to be more exact.
Pope Benedict XVI will retain his papal coat-of-arms but there will have to be some modification to indicate his emeritus or retired status. I suggest placing a hammer and broken seal within the tiara (the gold ring bearing the papal seal of Pope Benedict will be formally smashed) and changing the colours of the papal keys from the gold and silver of spiritual and temporal power to the rusty brown of an old passageway door. The Tiara would also lose its three crowns, indicative of the powers of the Supreme Pontiff: Sacred Orders, Jurisdiction and Magisterium.