When now-retired Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation last month, the news shook the Catholic church to its mighty foundations, and oh boy – did it stir up some conversation.
Granted, the “why” of the resignation will be speculated upon for ages. And because it was several centuries since the last time a pope resigned, there’s simply not much protocol for “What happens now?” Granted, some housekeeping items were rolled out at the get-go such as what happens to the papal ring and how to address the former pope post-retirement.
Practical girl that I am, I wonder about stuff: Does Pope Benedict have a “Golden Parachute?” A good retirement plan? Severance pay? An adequate health care plan? What happens to his red pope shoes? Yes, he’ll be switching to brown, which reminds me of a Facebook conversation I had recently. What with the stylish red papal shoes and hat, can’t the thought at least be ENTERTAINED that it might be time for a lady pope? Or “popette” as one friend put it.
Yes, I know, there’s that tiresome rule about being a “baptized male” – although the Church doesn’t require that the new pope be a cardinal. Interesting … Sean Connery is Catholic. Maybe the original “007 Pope” could recover nuclear warheads and stuff. Or how about Pope Dan Aykroyd? OK, so he’s technically a lapsed Catholic, but still. A little comic relief in Rome might loosen things up a bit. Bring a few new recruits to the religion.
But back to the recently retired Pope Benedict XVI. If you didn’t see his poignant send-off at the end of February, it was stunning watching the pontiff board the special white helicopter that whisked him through the skies of Rome as his adoring flock waved and shed tears below. We may not see much of the former pope as he has declared he’ll stay away from the conclave that selects a new pope. He’ll watch from afar (well, not too afar, more on that in a moment) – possibly while playing a quiet game of Scrabble.
However, won’t a former pope be in great demand as a guest on late night shows? Will he meet with Barbara Walters on “The View”? She always has that list of “Amazing People” at the ready and gets those rare interviews. Or perhaps he would consider being a contributor on CNN. I mean, who could be more qualified to be the Senior Papal Analyst? Sure, the former pope says he’ll live out his life in quiet prayer and study. But after he’s had a chance to rest and reflect, will he be ready to test the waters of a new career path?
And there’s this: After his stay at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, located in the hills outside Rome, the former pope will return for a “contemplative life within the walls of Vatican City,” per a Vatican website. In fact, Vatican Radio reports that in preparation for the former pope’s return, there is “renovation work” being done on the monastery of cloistered nuns right inside the Vatican!
What? OK, how awkward will it be to have TWO popes residing within the walls of the Vatican – nevermind that one is retired? Will the popes have a shared back fence where they meet for coffee? Will there be a competitive “one-upsmanship” between the two pontiffs?
More importantly: Will those “cloistered nuns” inside the Vatican be in residence when the former pope returns? Oh, my. This leads to a really big conundrum and I’ll tell you what: NOBODY has asked this question. Now that the former pope is the “former” pope, can he perhaps find, umm … a lady friend? Be free to marry even? Could there be a little Bavarian beauty somewhere waiting for this kind, German-born former pope?
Well, probably not, but still. I’m just sayin’.
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