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VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI will be known as “Pope Emeritus” and can continue to wear the white papal cassock after he steps down this week, the Vatican said yesterday.
The retiring leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics can still be referred to as “His Holiness Benedict XVI” and will have the additional title of “Roman pontiff emeritus”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
He will continue wearing the white cassock normally reserved for pontiffs after he resigns tomorrow — the first leader of the Catholic Church to do so since the Middle Ages — but without the doubled shoulder cape, Lombardi said.
The 85-year-old German pontiff stunned the world when he announced on February 11 that he would step down at the end of the month, citing his age and failing strength, following a troubled eight-year papacy dominated by scandals and Vatican intrigue.
Scandals over paedophile priests and cover-ups by their superiors have cast a dark shadow over his papacy, continuing into his final days, with activists calling for cardinals Sean Brady of Ireland and Roger Mahony of the United States to be barred from the conclave.
“It may seem desperate to make this call at this moment, but we really believe the children of the world would be made safer by the stroke of Benedict’s pen,” David Clohessy, director of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests told a news conference yesterday.
The Vatican meanwhile gave more details on the delicate transition from pope to ex-pontiff.
Lombardi said Benedict has chosen to swap his trademark red shoes for a brown pair given to him by artisans in Mexico during a trip last year, adding that he would also stop wearing the gold Fisherman’s Ring used to seal papal documents.
Tradition dictates that the ring be destroyed and a new one cast for each pope, but whether that occurs will be up to Vatican number two Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlingo or chamberlain who will be “interim pope” until a successor to Benedict is found.
The Vatican spokesman also said that a series of meetings of cardinals to settle on a date for the start of the papal election conclave could start on Monday. Benedict holds a final general audience in St Peter’s Square today, the eve of his formal resignation.