Five papal things Benedict gives up in retirement

Fisherman's ring, key symbol of papal authority, to be destroyed according to tradition

Since the surprise announcement that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring — set for 2 p.m. ET today — details have slowly emerged about what sort of life the former pontiff will live after his time as head of the Catholic Church is over.

It's been 600 years since the last pope stepped down so it wasn't clear what Benedict would do after his resignation. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, on Feb. 11, some even wondered what you call a retired pope.

On Tuesday, the Vatican shed some clarity on that issue by announcing that Benedict will keep his papal name, instead of reverting to Joseph Ratzinger, and will be referred to as "pope emeritus." He will also keep the title of "His Holiness," but not the other one: Bishop of Rome

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

However, the retiring pope will also have to give up a number of his ecclesiastical goods, including many that are steeped in the history and symbolism of the Church such as his papal ring and red shoes.

Here is a look at five items Benedict will be giving up when he enters retirement.


Papal ring

According to Robert Dennis, a teaching fellow at the department of history at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., one of the most important ceremonial items Benedict will have to part with is his papal ring, which is also called the fisherman's ring.

The gold ring, which bears an image of St. Peter and the current pope's name, is used as a papal seal and is always destroyed at the end of a papacy, usually when the office-holder dies. The BBC reported that Benedict's ring will be smashed by a specially designed silver hammer.

The ring "is a sign of authority of a particular pope and so that's why it's so important that the ring itself is destroyed once a papacy ends, so that no one can assert that authority except within whom it has been invested," Dennis told CBC News.


A pope's clothes

On Thursday, the Vatican also announced that Benedict has decided to continue wearing a "simple white cassock," or ankle-length robe, a colour which is reserved for the pope. But he will be giving up the mozzetta, the short, elbow-lentgh cape that covers the pope's shoulders.

"There is a lot of history and tradition when it comes to papal clothing, papal attire," Dennis said. White is meant to symbolize purity and holiness.

It also symbolizes "that the person who assumes the office of the pope is not chosen merely by a group of men, a group of cardinals, that he is chosen in a providential way," Dennis said.

Some Vatican officials had previously suggested that Benedict would wear the red of cardinals or the black garb of an ordinary priest after he retired, instead of the papal white.


Red shoes

The Vatican also announced on Thursday that Benedict will no longer wear the red shoes traditionally worn by popes, which is said to symbolize the blood of the martyrs.

Instead, he will wear a pair of hand-cobbled brown loafers presented to him during a 2012 visit to Mexico.


Papal Twitter account

According to Vatican Radio, Benedict's Twitter account @Pontifex will be inactive during the interim period between the papal resignation and the election of a successor during the papal conclave, a period known as sede vacante.

The account, along with its eight companion accounts in different languages, has almost three million followers although Benedict has only tweeted 38 times since its debut in December.

Vatican Radio quoted Paul Tighe, undersecretary of the pontifical council for social communications, who said the Twitter account was created for the exclusive use of the current pontiff.

"@Pontifex will be available for use by the next pope as he may wish," Tighe said in a statement.


Vatican palace

Church officials have said Benedict will fly by helicopter after his official resignation to the papal summer home at Castel Gandolfo, about 25 kilometres south of Rome.

However, the move is only temporary while renovations are completed to a monastery inside the Vatican where he will ultimately live.

According to a report from NPR, the building is only a few hundred metres from Palace of Sixtus, the official residence of the pope and where Benedict's successor will live.

The 85-year-old Benedict has said he plans to spend his retirement "hidden from the world" in a life of prayer. His personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, is to continue to attend to Benedict in retirement. But Gaenswein is also to remain on as the personal secretary or head of the papal household to the new pontiff as well, the Vatican has said.

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