, Salem, MA


February 16, 2013

Henry: Pope shows how to bow out gracefully


According to published reports, Pope Benedict will live in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat, after he resigns and later move to a monastery inside the Vatican gardens. It avoids some elementary mistakes that regular people make after retiring.

The pope has managed to avoid one of the biggest pitfalls, which is retirement in Florida. Nothing against Florida, but it can be as hot as Hades in summer. While this may present an interesting theological reminder, the sticky weather comes with the temptation to wear shorts, always to be avoided by senior church leaders, active or retired.

But a greater danger lurks in Florida — and I am not talking about the crowds of seniors filling the Winn-Dixie parking lot and leaving no space for a Popemobile. No, it’s the notorious casserole ladies. These are ladies of a certain age, now single, who still like the company of men and wish to tempt new male arrivals into relationships with the aid of casseroles. Florida is no country for old popes.

As regards the aforementioned Old Popes Home, a monastery in Rome wouldn’t be such a bad thing, unless the Vatican accountants get to thinking about how to cut costs by adding more guests. This might happen naturally with other popes following Benedict’s example and taking early retirement. Then several popes could get together to play checkers and complain about modern liturgical music.

But more likely, the bean counters would suggest adding some retired senior leaders from other faiths — a Coptic pope here, a grand mufti there, perhaps an archbishop of Canterbury or a televangelist. It would be very ecumenical, but it wouldn’t be the same. At that stage, Benedict would be forgiven if he took his chances with the casserole ladies.

My concern is that like any retiree, the pope might fall into unproductive elderly habits — such as playing golf, circulating reactionary emails about politicians and watching sports endlessly on TV. The pope needs to be sure to keep up his exercise and not become a pew potato. He would be well-advised to take one of his encyclicals and ride it around the park every now and then.

I sincerely hope Benedict has a quiet, peaceful and holy retirement, free at last from his grave responsibilities and spared the rank scribblings of certain cartoonists — you know who you are — who have made him appear like a manic raccoon about to descend on the bins.

Love him or hate him, he has earned his rest and our respect.


Reach Reg Henry, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, at

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