Retiring Benedict to be called 'emeritus pope'

The Vatican says once Pope Benedict XVI retires in two days, he'll be known as "emeritus pope" and continue to wear a simple white cassock. Tomorrow, he will hold his final public general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Will hold final public general audience in St. Peter's Square tomorrow

Pope Benedict XVI appears for his last Angelus noon prayer before a crowd in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Feb. 24. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press)

The Vatican has answered some of the outstanding questions about Pope Benedict XVI's future once he's retired, saying he will be known as "emeritus pope," keep the title of "His Holiness," and continue to wear a white cassock.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Tuesday that Benedict himself made the decisions in consultation with others.

While he will no longer wear his trademark red shoes, Benedict, 85, has taken a liking to a pair of hand-crafted brown loafers made for him by artisans in Leon, Mexico and presented to him during his 2012 visit. He will wear them in retirement.

The Pope's title and what he would wear has been a major question ever since Benedict stunned the world on Feb. 11 and announced he would resign on Thursday.

He became the first pope to retire in 600 years, after saying he no longer has the mental or physical strength to vigorously lead the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

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 he 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.

Canadian cardinals in Rome

Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, on Tuesday said playing a role in selecting the new pope will be an "awesome" responsibility."

"I’m overwhelmed by the majesty of the occasion," he told CBC's Heather Hiscox, a day after arriving in Rome to take part in the conclave.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archibishop Emeritus of Montreal and another participant, said the job "is not an easy one."

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.

Adding to the concern is that Benedict's trusted secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, will be serving both pontiffs — living with Benedict at the monastery inside the Vatican and keeping his day job as prefect of the new pope's household.

Asked about the potential conflicts, Lombardi was defensive, saying the decisions had been clearly reasoned and were likely chosen for the sake of simplicity.

"I believe it was well thought out," he said.

Benedict himself has made clear he is retiring to a lifetime of prayer and meditation "hidden from the world." However, he still will be very present in the tiny Vatican city-state, where his new home is right next door to the Vatican Radio and has a lovely view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict plans to live at the papal summer home in Castel Gandolfo, 24 kilometres south of Rome, once his resignation takes effect. He will then move to a Vatican monastery formerly housing cloistered nuns once renovations to the building are completed, Benedict will live there.

No date yet for start of conclave

Lombardi also elaborated on the College of Cardinals meetings that will take place after the papacy becomes vacant — crucial gatherings in which cardinals will discuss the problems facing the church and set a date for the start of the conclave to elect Benedict's successor.

The first meeting isn't now expected until Monday, Lombardi said, since the official convocation to cardinals to come to Rome will only go out on Friday — the first day of what's known as the "sede vacante," or the vacancy between papacies.

In all, 115 cardinals under the age of 80 are expected in Rome for the conclave to vote on who should become the next pope; two other eligible cardinals have already said they are not coming, one from Britain and another from Indonesia. Cardinals who are 80 and older can join the college meetings but won't participate in the conclave or vote.

Benedict on Monday gave the cardinals the go-ahead to move up the start date of the conclave — tossing out the traditional 15-day waiting period. But the cardinals won't actually set a date for the conclave until they begin meeting officially Monday.

Final papal audience

Pope Benedict will appear to worshippers in St. Peter's Square for a final general audience, starting at 4:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday. and CBC News Network will broadcast the event live. Thousands of Catholic pilgrims are travelling to Rome to attend.

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 political leaders — from San Marino, Andorra and his native Bavaria — privately afterwards. will stream the general audience beginning at 4:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the Pope meets with his cardinals in the morning and then flies by helicopter at 5 p.m. to Castel Gandolfo. 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 inside, their service protecting the head of the Catholic Church now finished.

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