Opaque, hierarchical and arcane, the Vatican is a tough beat even for seasoned reporters. It involves paying punctilious attention to papal routine -- never missing the often dreary papal audiences on a Wednesday and the uneventful address from the Vatican on Sunday.And
Now, Pope Benedict's resignation -- the first in 600 years -- has rewritten the rule book; not just for the Vatican, which now goes through a complex and unprecedented interregnum, but also for the Vatican press corps.Interesting and illuminating. Unfortunately, the author gets off track and doesn't tell us exactly why His Holiness's abdication changes the rules.
Speaking unscripted to thousands of priests from the diocese of Rome, in what turned out to be a farewell address in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital, Benedict outlined a cloistered life ahead, once he steps down in two weeks time:Ugh. Don't tell me this was all overblown (probably), and His Holiness being available was meant in a purely spiritual sense!
"Even if I am withdrawing into prayer, I will always be close to all of you and I am sure that you will be close to me, even if I remain hidden to the world," he said.
"In my opinion, once he resigns he should put aside the white cassock and put on the robes of a cardinal," said Father Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and an author of books on the Vatican.
"He should no longer be called pope, or Benedict, or your Holiness, but should be referred to as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger," Reese added. "After the new pope is elected, he should attend his installation along with the other retired cardinals and pledge his allegiance to the new pope."This I agree with wholeheartedly. Most importantly, a message must be sent that will not be two Popes. Confusion must be annihilated at all costs to secure the legitimacy of Benedict XVI's successor.
On Wednesday night, he presided at an Ash Wednesday Mass that was moved to the vast St Peter's Basilica from its original venue in Rome.You know, His Holiness's abdication could become a public relations masterstroke. Benedict XVI, the pope who retired from the papacy for the good of the Church and his flock. Talk about legacies. Could His Holiness's exit from the papacy not only define how history will view him but also redefine how history views John Paul II?
A capacity crowd gave him a thunderous standing ovation at his last public Mass. In his homily he said the Church had been at times "defaced" by scandals, divisions and rivalries.
"Thank you. Now, let's return to prayer," the pontiff said, bringing an end to several minutes of applause that clearly moved him. In an unusual gesture, bishops took off their mitres in a sign of respect. Some of them wept.