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Nation/World

February 27, 2013

Benedict to be called 'emeritus pope'

VATICAN CITY — Two pontiffs, both wearing white, both called “pope” and living a few yards from one another, with the same key aide serving them.

The Vatican’s announcement yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI will be known as “emeritus pope” in his retirement, be called “Your Holiness” and continue to wear the white cassock associated with the papacy has fueled concerns about potential conflicts arising from the peculiar reality now facing the Catholic Church: having one reigning and one retired pope.

Benedict’s title and what he will wear have been a major source of speculation since the 85-year-old pontiff stunned the world and announced he would resign tomorrow, the first pope to do so in 600 years.

There has been good reason why popes haven’t stepped down in past centuries, given the possibility for divided allegiances and even schism. But the Vatican insists that while the situation created by Benedict’s retirement is certainly unique, no major conflicts will arise.

“According to the evolution of Catholic doctrine and mentality, there is only one pope. Clearly it’s a new situation, but I don’t think there will be problems,” Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said in an interview.

Critics aren’t so sure. Some Vatican-based cardinals have privately grumbled that it will make it more difficult for the next pope with Benedict still around.

Swiss theologian Hans Kueng, Benedict’s one-time colleague-turned-critic, went further: “With Benedict XVI, there is a risk of a shadow pope who has abdicated but can still indirectly exert influence,” he told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine last week.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said yesterday that Benedict himself decided on his name and wardrobe in consultation with others, settling on “Your Holiness Benedict XVI” and either “emeritus pope” or “emeritus Roman pontiff.”

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