Vatican to call Benedict 'pontiff emeritus'

The portrait of Pope Benedict XVI (L) is displayed next to Pope John Paul II's on a wall of the St Paul Outside the Wallsu2019 basilica on February 13, 2013 in Rome. The portraits of each pope are displayed in a frieze extending above the columns separating the four aisles and naves. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

The portrait of Pope Benedict XVI (L) is displayed next to Pope John Paul II's on a wall of the St Paul Outside the Wallsu2019 basilica on February 13, 2013 in Rome. The portraits of each pope are displayed in a frieze extending above the columns separating the four aisles and naves.

AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

VATICAN CITY (2nd UPDATE) – Pope Benedict XVI will have the official title of "pontiff emeritus" after he resigns on Thursday, February 28 – the first leader of the Catholic Church to do so since the Middle Ages, the Vatican said.

Benedict can be addressed as "Your Holiness," can continue wearing his white papal cassock and will have the title of "Roman Pontiff Emeritus," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Tuesday, February 26.

Benedict can also still wear a white cassock normally reserved only for pontiffs and will continue using the shoes given to him by artisans in Mexico during a trip last year, Lombardi said.

It is the first time a pope resigned in 600 years, and it remains to be seen how a pontiff emeritus can affect Vatican affairs. Lombardi, however, earlier said Benedict's presence "will in no way be an impediment, interference or a problem." (Read: Papal cohabitation a unique challenge.)

'No room for pope emeritus'

On Tuesday, Rappler reported that the late Pope John Paul II, the outgoing pope's former superior, also mulled leaving his post. A best-selling book, however, said John Paul frowned on the title “pope emeritus.” (Read: John Paul to Ratzinger: Should I resign?)

In 1994, according to the book Why He Is a Saint, John Paul told surgeon Gianfranco Fineschi, who operated on him: “Doctor, both you and I have only one choice. You must heal me. And I must heal. Because there is no place in the Church for a pope emeritus.” (Watch Rappler's video report below.)

Supporting John Paul's cause for sainthood, the book was written by Msgr Slawomir Oder, the priest pushing for the late pope's canonization.

Meanwhile, Lombardi also said that a series of meetings of cardinals to settle on a date for the start of a conclave to elect Benedict's successor could start on Monday, March 4. 

Lombardi said the pope had already sorted between the official documents from his papacy that will remain in the Vatican and personal notes that he will take with him into retirement.

The Vatican said it will broadcast Benedict's last hours in the Vatican. A helicopter will bring the pontiff emeritus to his retirement home at around 5 pm on Thursday, the Vatican also said. with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com