Benedict death paves way for protocols to guide future popes – The Denver Post


VATICAN CITY — There was no tolling of the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica, no solemn announcement by a Vatican monsignor to the faithful in the square. A fisherman’s ring did not get smashed and the diplomatic corps were not mobilized to send official delegations to Rome.

The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed in an entirely un-papal-like manner Saturday, with a two-sentence announcement from the Vatican press office, making clear once and for all that Benedict stopped being pope a decade ago. The rituals of his passing were less like the ones of a pontiff, monarch or Vicar of Christ on Earth and more akin to those of a retired bishop, even if he will be buried in the red vestments of a pope.

In a way it was fitting, and drove home that the new chapter in the history of the Catholic Church that Benedict began writing in 2013 when he became the first pope in 600 years to resign had ended, and that it’s now up to Pope Francis to follow up with how future popes might retire.

Will Francis issue new protocols to regulate the office of a retired pope, after Benedict largely winged it on the fly? Will he feel more free to consider his own retirement, now that the main impediment to resignation — having two emeritus popes at the same time — has been removed? How does a reigning pope celebrate the funeral of a retired one?

“I think that his death will open problems, not close problems,” said Massimo Franco, the author of “The Monastery,” a book about Benedict’s revolutionary retirement.

According to preliminary information released by the Vatican, Benedict’s funeral Thursday in St. Peter’s Square seems designed to be low-key, in keeping with his wishes for “simplicity” but also making clear that his status as an emeritus does not merit a pomp-filled papal sendoff.

When John Paul II died in 2005, presidents, prime ministers and kings from more than 100 countries attended the funeral presided over by none other than Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Benedict XVI after his election as pope 10 days later.

For Benedict’s funeral, the Vatican only invited Italy and Germany to send official delegations, and advised foreign embassies that any other leaders who wished to attend could do so but only in their “private capacity.”

Benedict’s body will lie in state in St. Peter’s Basilica starting Monday, but the three-day window for the faithful to pay their respects suggests a limited outpouring is expected. After John Paul’s death, an estimated 2 million people lined up for four days and nights to say a final farewell, with some camping out on the cobblestones.

Italian security officials estimate some 60,000 people could attend the funeral, a fraction of the 300,000 who packed the piazza and surrounding streets in 2005.


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