On 22nd February, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, the president for the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, announced that Benedict XVI will, after his abdication takes effect, be referred to as the “Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. We wrote about that at the time and all agreed that it was the right title. We remember Pope John Paul II’s quip “There’s no place in the Church for a Pope Emeritus”.
Then this morning, the same dear lady who rang me at 6:30am on February 12 to tell me that the Holy Father resigned, rang again at the same hour to tell me “He will have his last mass on Wednesday and then he won’t wear his red shoes anymore and he will be called Pope Emeritus”.
Dear, oh dear, I thought, when will the secular media get it right? Why this fascination with trivia and failure to understand plain Italian?
Well, imagine my surprise when I finally read the report of Fr Lombardi’s latest press conference in which he announced:
1) Benedict XVI will be “Pontiff emeritus” or “Pope emeritus”
2) the Pope will no longer wear the red papal shoes
Don’t get sidetracked by the red herring – I mean, shoes. What’s going on with the title business? I would have thought that the Cardinal President of Legislative Texts was a pretty authoritative source for the post-papal title. Did Fr Lombardi get confused, or has there indeed been a rethink of the title since Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s announcement? And who would have the authority to call the shots on this one?
Is it possible that His Holiness himself decided his predecessor was wrong, and that “Pope Emeritus” is a more fitting title than “Bishop-Emeritus of Rome”?
It should be a simple matter, but unfortunately, hearing one thing from the Cardinal and one thing from Fr Lombardi has just left me confused. And at this time in the Church, confusion is one thing that we do not need more of.
As for the Holy Father’s “last mass” today – I think my dear friend was just confused.