Life After the Papacy: What Lies Ahead for the Pope Post-Abdication

Even as his resignation looms, many details of precedent and procedure remain unresolved — and that may cause problems in a church where the symbolic is often the same as the substantial

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Pope Benedict XVI attends a meeting with his cardinals during a farewell ceremony in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on February 28, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

UPDATED

With an emotional signoff Thursday from the highest balcony of his temporary home at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict XVI became the first pope in 600 years to relinquish his title, leaving the Vatican without a leader as the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new Pope. The gathered onlookers were filled with cheers and tears as Benedict, calling himself “just a pilgrim,” announced his crossing back into private life. Effective 8 p.m. Vatican time Thursday evening, Benedict XVI becomes known as “Pope Emeritus” and abdicates the rights and responsibilities that come with being the pontiff of the Catholic Church.

He promised his unconditional support and reverence during a day of meetings in the Vatican, where he discussed the selection of his successor. Later, he was loaded into an Italian air force helicopter, en route to the papal summer home at Castel Gandolfo, in the hilly, picturesque Roman suburbs. As the chopper hovered over the Vatican, church bells rang out loudly.

His piano and his beloved books followed the ex-Pontiff on the short trip Thursday afternoon from the Apostolic Palace — Sixtus V’s majestic palazzo that has served as the Popes’ living quarters and main office since the 16th century — to Mater Ecclesiae, which despite a name that means the Mother of the Church in Latin, is the small Vatican convent where he will spend his last years.

All the other papal paraphernalia — the Renaissance masterpieces on the walls of his study, the ancient cabinets and tapestries, the gifts from heads of state and Cardinals who visited from all over the world, the files and documents that detail the thousand issues the leader of the world’s largest church must face every day — all these will remain where they are. And the man who once was Pope Benedict XVI probably won’t miss them.

(MORE: Pope Benedict’s Second Act)

Joseph Ratzinger was 78 when he was elected to the papacy, and he had never been shy about saying that after serving as Pope John Paul II’s doctrinal enforcer for almost a quarter century, he wanted to retire to a quieter life, perhaps spending more time with his beloved older brother Georg, a choirmaster in their native Germany and a fellow priest. The Cardinals — and, for Catholics, the Holy Spirit — chose otherwise on April 19, 2005 and he was elected Pope, taking the name Benedict XVI.

But after nearly eight years marked by global crises and internal struggles, Benedict took the matter in his own hands and announced his resignation on Feb. 11. His brother Georg Ratzinger was one of the few people to whom Benedict had confided his choice — and has been of its strongest supporters despite the shock and sometimes dismay of the world’s Catholics. “Of course I was saddened … but I am a practical person and I know that human forces can become inadequate for that role,” the brother told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Feb. 21.

The big change from his original retirement plan is that Benedict will not return home to Germany, continuing to live in the Vatican. According to analysts, this is a consequence of his desire not to create an alternative power center for believers unhappy with any future Pope. But it has raised a host of unprecedented issues for the Catholic Church.

(MORE: A Papal Benediction)

The simple act of resigning from one of the world’s most daunting jobs — one that combines the role of spiritual leader to a flock of over 1 billion, absolute monarch of a tiny but fully functioning state and administrative head of a global bureaucracy of hundreds of thousands people — is not uncomplicated. The Vatican is still grappling with the consequences of Benedict’s gesture and its yet unfathomed ramifications. While church law envisaged papal resignation as a possibility, no one, it now appears, had ever prepared for the case.

Benedict has already changed one thing: the conclave that will elect his successor — which traditionally convenes 15 days after the end of a Pope’s reign — will now be able to start as soon as all the Cardinal electors arrive in Rome. That may mean an earlier start time than the previously expected March 15 — and almost certainly means a new Pope in time for the rituals of the church’s most sacred season, Holy Week, which begins on March 24, Palm Sunday. Benedict has also issued a harsher punishment for those who break the Conclave’s oath of secrecy (there have been many in the past, including from the session that saw Ratzinger’s election in 2005). The offender will now be excommunicated–even if he is a Cardinal.

On Tuesday, a few other post-Benedictine details were resolved: His official title will be Pope Emeritus. He will wear a simple white cassock. His red shoes will be replaced by comfortable brown loafers from Leon in Mexico. But others remain sticky: Will he be attending the rites officiated by his successor and, if so, in which capacity? And who would have precedence in such a ceremony? Such things may sound minor or procedural, but they carry a lot of weight in a world where the symbolic is always substantial.

For an institution like the Catholic Church, used to relying on tradition to find its course of action and where change is measured in centuries, the terra incognita of having two Popes, living a few hundred meters from each other within the Vatican walls, is something unprecedented, and thus truly frightening.

Additionally, the Holy See continues to counter the reports of scandal that have plagued the waning days of Benedict’s rule (including the resignation of Britain’s senior Cardinal on Monday in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behavior with young priests decades ago). The Vatican has accused the Italian press of trying to influence the election of the new Pontiff. The local media has been critical of the immense influence of the secretive Vatican bureaucracy, the Roman Curia, in administering the papal state, including its controversial finances.

(PHOTOS: The Path of Pope Benedict XVI)

But the Curia itself is uncertain about political dynamics of the post-Benedict era. Many in the bureaucracy are concerned that the retired Pope will cast a long shadow over his successor, and will exert — directly or not — some influence over his decisions. The Vatican chief spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, and the whole papal entourage have been reassuring ever since the announcement that Benedict will keep a very low profile, and that his “sensibility” will make sure that there is no interference with the new Pope. But suspicions deepened with the news, a few days after the announcement of his resignation, that Benedict’s private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, will continue to serve the new Pope as head of the Papal Household, setting his schedule and deciding who will have access to him while continuing to live in Mater Ecclesiae at the side of his old master.

The refurbishment of the Mater Ecclasiae convent — discreetly contracted last autumn by the Secretariat of State to a company outside the Vatican — is mostly aimed at making space for the ex-Pope’s extensive library. At the convent, Benedict will continue to live with the four consecrated women who served him in his apartment while he was Pope. According to the Italian daily La Stampa, he will receive a small stipend — around $3,300 per month, the pension usually granted to retired bishops — but he probably won’t have much use for it. The Vatican will continue to care for his needs out of its own budget.

Benedict told priests in Rome last week that he would live “hidden from the world.” The Vatican says he will devote his time to prayer and study. But what if he publishes books — like the encyclical on faith, reportedly almost finished but stuck in the clogs of Vatican bureaucracy? What if Cardinals and Catholics from the world over start visiting his retirement house as a place of pilgrimage? “He will keep his freedom” to write and move, Lombardi confirmed. “But we are dealing with an unprecedented situation, we’ll see how he will live it out.”

At least, Benedict shouldn’t fear the fate of his predecessor, Celestine V, a saint he admires: after resigning from the papacy in 1294, he was arrested by his successor, Boniface VIII, and ended his days in a jail.

VIDEO: TIME Explains: How New Pope Is Elected

33 comments
Tryst321
Tryst321

Catholic priests are disgusting. What they do to young boys who look to them in trust is inexcusable. The Roman Catholic Church is overflowing with sexual perverts who sodomize young boys whenever they get the opportunity. Yet they then have the gall to try to show the world they are holy and pious. They are not. They make me sick. The Catholic Church attracts these types of people because they are with men who share the same interests, the Church protects them and they can always be sent to the Vatican to avoid prosecution.

TheMirrorMan
TheMirrorMan

Christianity - The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree... yeah, makes perfect sense.

Clancy7
Clancy7

Well this is new!!! (sarcasm) The non-believers "preach" and "pontificate" about the silliness of religion and quote smart folk to prove their point.  Meanwhile, the believers scoff at the heresy of thumbing one's nose at God and quote smart folk to prove their point.  It is a strange thing that it isn't enough for a non-believer to simply not believe and not taunt the believer.  And equally strange for a beliver to simply believe and not taunt the non-believer.  Whether He is or He isn't...  we should expect more of each other.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

The Pope resigned, and now a conclave will elect Benedict XVI's successor.  Contrary to the insinuation, the Vatican is certainly being guided by a experienced (and divinely-inspired) crew.

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

bend over, here it comes again, as it has now for almost 2000 years.  Humanity has serious learning deficits. Consider the ones that attend "higher" education institutions founded in religion like Liberty University or Patrick Henry College only to graduate believing that America was founded on "christian principles," what ever than means. We'll never learn, but I would love to have a few pieces from the Vatican's art collection to feed the poor, or even build a few more submarines and battleships. Fools.

RobinMiller
RobinMiller

I offered to serve as Pope. I figured a married (non-practicing) Jew with an African-American wife and a whole passel of kids, step-kids, and grand-kids would be a refreshing change for the Catholic church. Naturally, I will convert if they give me the job, since being a Catholic is a requirement (although being a priest is NOT). 

The Vatican hasn't called me yet, but they might any day now. My wife is not totally keen on moving to Italy and being married to a Pope, but she says if that's what I really want to do, she'll go along with it. 

GrantMacDonald1
GrantMacDonald1

Many theologians state quite correctly that the birth; crucifixion; resurrection and other elements of christianity actually didn’t even happen!  Churches are committing hate crimes and more succinctly a violent criminal offence against a federally protected minority namely the gay community. It is actually a bigger moment in history … gays standing up for equality ... the realization that there is something far more evil at work -- hateful religion which should be discharged from society – period.

Religion and the churches should now be exposed as a bigoted structure that gets away with hate mongering.It is a criminal offence to cause harm onto others physically or with written items; torahs – old testament/new testament bibles have been getting away with corruption and cultism based on bogus hocus pocus.

There is no scientific evidence to prove any of the cross related bogus elements of christianity and other religions. Our early human ancestors; on this earth … go back more than 6 million years … 5,996,000 years before the Greeks, Romans and the Jews.  Christianity is basically a 2013 year old fictional cult. In the year 300 AD when Emperor Constantine, who to some was the first pope; went on to fabricate & market Christianity!

Christianity is a fantasy; which turned out to be one of the most hateful & evil concoctions ever perpetrated on the world.  

Einstein stated in a letter recently auctioned that the bible was a collection of primitive legends. He said believing in God was childish and he as a Jew is no different than another person and are not chosen by God.

Today’s evangelical extremists are like the nazis who cast others into ovens & are actually supremacists - who practice their bogus hocus pocus - and are trying to suppress and deprive others of their happiness and their legal rights in an open and proud society. 

bossymama57
bossymama57

What's going to happen when he dies? Where will he be buried? Will the current pope preside at his funeral Mass? Can the new pope undo all that Benedict has done while he's still alive? I find this all fascinating! 

JRuss
JRuss

Are we delusional?It’s the 21st century, we’re educated, scientifically adroit and you expect us to continue to believe in a mythical all knowing, all seeing “big guy” in the sky created by people who also believed in Geocentric earth, Humoral theory, Aether and a myriad of other occult hokum ? If there was an all knowing “big guy” he should have known this was crap and said so.

The one unifying theory of all primitive, ancient and modern belief or religious systems is the desire to create man’s self-continuance; nirvana, Valhalla, the Happy Hunting Ground, Heaven, etc.Man with the ability to reason does not want, is too egotistical, too self-absorbed, and/or narcissistic to accept death as finality.Every culture, no matter how primitive or ignorant needed to invent an after-life, a way to go on, continuance.Several of these religions, Christianity for example, improved on the chances of their own continuance by creating rules for adherence to their particular doctrine and penalties for their violation with the ultimate threat of withdrawal of the ability to continue, or in Christianity’s case even doubling down with the threat of continuance but with eternal excruciating pain by fire in hell.

Wow if the “Big Guy” is this powerful, all seeing and all knowing, why does he always need money?

There are about 7 billion people alive on earth today, the most ever, 106 billion total in history.There is not one verifiable or provable instance in world history of anyone returning or communicating after death, none, crazy Pat Robinson to the contrary.Like your dead ancestors, every dead Pope or religious leader prayed for by millions, Presidents, or Billionaires, they and eventually you are going to die in the same exact ways all we humans and yes even your dog Tag have ever died for eternity, and it will be the end.

Quit wasting time and money on a fools errand.

Zac22
Zac22

Congratulations on a fair and respectful article that is not based on heresay and "allegations". Bravo Time Magazine and Mr. Alessandro for not writing another shock/hater piece.

falcon269
falcon269

If they don't focus on what Jesus said and did, and continue to follow what the Catholic church has said and done, the Vatican will slip into obsolescence.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

I hope the Holy See clears up these issues soon and not try to hide anything. After all, you can only fool some of the papal some of the time.


JonathanMartin
JonathanMartin

He'll be living it up in a castle like a retired monarch, once again demonstrating to the world that he and Jesus Christ have nothing in common. When will people learn?

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@Clancy7 You would think. Personally, I'm offended by faith based initiatives and any other activity that blurs the lines between church and state.  and then there are the religious zealots telling me that America is essentially a theocracy based in "christian principles."  I'm a live and let live kind of guy right up to the point where these folks tell me that because of their beliefs that they are somehow morally superior to me because of have renounced their religious beliefs.  I believe that many other free nations already experienced what we are now witnessing in America, in some cases several centuries ago. I don't wish to live in a theocracy, I don't wish to have my tax money spent on "faith based initiatives."

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@RobinMiller oi vey. but I certainly appreciate your offer as well as your sense of humor. best wishes.

fatality1515
fatality1515

@GrantMacDonald1

"Christianity is a fantasy"?? An even bigger fantasy, is the liberal utopian multicultural politically correct fantasy!

Liberal/leftists are the real nazis in todays society! They are full of hatred and immoral values, their main objective is to destroy western culture and exterminate the white human race.

RobinMiller
RobinMiller

@GrantMacDonald1 -Whatever. If religion keeps people from running wild, let them enjoy it. You're not hurt by their beliefs as long as people like you and me keep them from turning their beliefs into civil law. I've been to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where all laws are based on religion. It's a miserable place. Wealth everywhere, but no music. Literally none, by law. And the way they treat women? Oy! Horrible. That whole country is a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks letting clerics make and enforce laws is nuts. 

fatality1515
fatality1515

@JRuss

oh nooo... another anti-religion rant...

"There is not one verifiable or provable instance in world history of anyone returning or communicating after death..."

blah blah blah.. at one point we also had no proof that earth is a sphere, we didn't know about the existence of black holes, galaxies, the extra 6 or 11 dimensions in the string theory etc etc.. We didn't have proof of any of that.. You never know, maybe there is a god.. He is living in the extra dimensions and looking at us as if we are some bacteria on a petri dish..

The major benefit of religion is that it organizes people thousand times better than any political group can, it provides a sense of direction in life, laws and strong moral values (sometime immoral, depending on the religion, same as political parties you could say -stupid liberals for example).

What we get when we abandon religion is greed, low birth rates, broken families, shallow culture, homosexual marriages, polygamy, and soon, we will have legal intermarriages, pedophilia and bestiality -all thanks to liberal political correctness.. All of it leads to decadence and collapse of a civilization.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@falcon269 If they don't focus on what was supposedly said and done by the fictional figure of Jesus, the fiction based on the ancient Egyptian man-god Horus.  There is nothing in the life of the former that doesn't mirror the life of the latter.

The Vatican, in additional to all religions, is already more than obsolete.  It sounds ad though you and many others need to take a step back and learn to think rationally about the world around you.  But since rational thought is anathema to the superstitions and cults that are referred to as "religions", you probably won't.  I fact, you and your cohorts may well be afraid to do so.  That why I dare you to take that chance.  When you've done so, you'll agree with me.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@JonathanMartin 

Wrong.  Jesus was a timeless display of humility and humbleness.  The Pope has displayed those exact same characteristics by resigning, and titling himself as a mere 'pilgrim.'

Might want to check your facts .

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@fatality1515 So, according to you, because you are religious, you are therefore morally superior to me. Where were you when Ted Haggard, head evangelical mucky-muck of America, was  cheating on his wife and family while having an affair with a male prostitute and sucking on a meth pipe?  Where is your moral principle when it comes to calling religion what it is?  And how about the hatred spewing from the lips of televangelist and racist John Hagee?  Again, believe what ever you wish, as long as you keep your amoral filthy gutter religion out of public policy and my secular government.

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

How many decades, if not centuries, has pedophilia been a part of the church of Rome and other christian denominations?  You're delusional man.

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@fatality1515  

I disagree, Religion, in any incarnation but particularly the Abrahamics, are divisive as hell, if not evil. Millions have died and suffered in its name in multitudes of methods from flying airplanes into buildings to the murdering of doctors out the misguided belief that embryos are people.  Where you find the devout you will find poverty and suffering. I give you Mississippi the poorest, yet most pious state in the country.  At the root of our political rifts here in America is ...... religion in the form of zealotry personified. Televangelists Ted Haggard to John Hagee, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Richard Murdouck, Todd Arkin, etc, etc. They can keep their filthy gutter religion and believe whatever they wish, as long as they keep their religion out of public policy and my secular government. There will never be peace in the world until religion becomes extinct, as all religions eventually do.

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@mrbomb13 @JonathanMartin  

Both are myths, ancient ones at that, fabricated by the collective mind of an ancient man. There are no excuses for these behaviours and antediluvian beliefs in 2013.

fatality1515
fatality1515

@Perfectarc

I am NOT religious or conservative, and it seems I'm morally superior to you because you have a weak argument (comments below).

RobinMiller
RobinMiller

@Perfectarc @RobinMiller @GrantMacDonald1This is America. We have freedumb of speech. Let them spout. Just don't let them run anything important. We need to accept the fact that our population has always had about 20% crazies who believed in Lyndon LaRouche, the Flying Ramen monster (Godzilla version of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), and the NRA. 

fatality1515
fatality1515

@Perfectarc

I don't watch TV, I haven't for 16 years, I don't even own a TV! I'm not going to argue with you because all you have is an intelligence of a ten year old and a leftist american-centric anti-televangelist mentality..

Perfectarc
Perfectarc

@fatality1515  

There is not a nation on the face of the Earth has a catholic presence that has not been touched by the perverted cleric criminals housed, cloistered, and protected by this corrupt, amoral enterprise. In the US alone the number of catholic clerics involved in pedophilia was somewhere around 4, 650 according to a study done by the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, and that was now a few years ago.  The cruelty of the Christian Brothers in Ireland the last century touched the lives of thousands upon thousands of innocent children in the form of physical and emotional abuse by nuns and male clerics.  I have a friend who was struck on the side of his head by a Christian Brother in Ireland who has suffered a lifetime deaf in his left ear. And then there are the inquisitions and crusades throughout history. It goes on and on and on, in every denomination, not just catholicism, but usually in the name of a common mythological deity. 

  It was the free press that revealed truths to the world whether it was Watergate or your filthy, psychopathic clerics. If you wish to allow yourself to be propagandized by NewMax and Fox News, well, that's your problem. It's the conservative press that has attempted to shovel dirt over the mess caused by organized religions, including Murdoch's enterprises so don't blame the problems of a long corrupt religion on the free press.

fatality1515
fatality1515

@Perfectarc 

Sorry, but in the last century I didn't see an army of Catholics commanded by a Pope invade a country..

How many people died in the name of fascism, communism and democracy? How many thousands of Iraqis did Bush slaughtered? What about Hitler? Stalin? The government institutions slaughtered more people in the last century than all the religions combined since the beginning of time.

As for the pedophiles in the church, those are incidents that are blown out of proportion by liberal media. You will find pedophiles everywhere -in school, children's playground, government, military, hospitals, at your workplace.. They just don't make an exciting story as the church or a government official does, also in these institutions the prospect of extortion is much greater.

By the way, pedophilia is not a "part" of church. You're the one who is delusional, poorly educated, and brainwashed by liberal/leftist propaganda..