With retirement weeks away, what’s next for Pope Benedict?
Published Tuesday, February 12, 2013 9:01AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 12, 2013 11:37PM EST
Vatican City has entered uncharted territories following Pope Benedict XVI surprise retirement announcement, shocking the Catholic community worldwide.
As the first Pope to retire in 600 years, there’s no modern precedent for how Benedict will spend his retirement, what kind of influence he’ll have on the church’s teaching, or even what he’ll be called.
A date for a conclave to choose the next pope has not been announced, but it must begin within 20 days of Benedict’s Feb. 28 retirement. That means a new pope will likely be elected by the College of Cardinals by Easter – which lands on March 31 this year.
Vatican spokesperson Rev. Federico Lombardi said Benedict will have no influence on the election of his successor.
"The pope will surely say absolutely nothing about the process of election," he told The Associated Press.
However, the majority of the cardinals that will participate in the election process were appointed by Benedict, giving him an indirect influence on his successor.
The Pope’s older brother, also a priest, said Tuesday that the 85-year-old is not planning on moving back to his German homeland. Rather, Benedict will stay in the Vatican.
In Vatican City, crews are at work renovating a house where it’s thought that Benedict will live after his resignation.
Vatican insiders say Benedict decided to retire last April after a demanding trip to Mexico and Cuba in March. Very few knew of the pope’s plan, according to reports.
It’s not yet clear whether the pope will retain the name Benedict or revert to being called Joseph Ratzinger once he’s retired.
Vatican officials said Benedict would most likely be referred to "Bishop of Rome, emeritus" however, others have said it would probably be up to the next pope to decide Benedict's new title.
Immediately after his resignation, Benedict will spend some time at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, in the hills south of Rome where he has spent past summer vacations reading and writing.
Theology experts have said the pope’s surprise resignation points to the need for the Catholic Church to look to a more contemporary leader.
Catherine Clifford, the head of an international Catholic theology group, says the papacy requires a younger leader who will step away from the staunch conservatism that was witnessed in Benedict’s reign.
“There will be a desire to engage more with contemporary people, but also to deal with this tremendous cultural diversity in the worldwide Catholic community,” Clifford told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday.
The Ottawa-based professor of theology said age will likely factor into the selection of the new leader of the Catholic Church.
Benedict was the oldest pontiff elected in nearly 300 years and the first to retire in six centuries, citing age and declining health as the reasons for his resignation.
On Tuesday, the Vatican for the first time acknowledged that the Pope has lived with a pacemaker for a number of years and that he underwent a procedure a few months ago, in secret, to have the battery replaced.
“With the demands of office, we need someone who’s more energetic, more in tune with contemporary people,” Clifford said, adding that the next pope will likely be in the range of 60 to 70 years old, which is considered “young” for the papacy.
Theology professor John Young of the Queen’s University School of Religion said Benedict’s resignation could be seen as an act of courage, opening the door to future retirements in the papacy.
“The tradition has been so strong, when you are elected pope, you remain in that office until you die,” Young told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “In this case, it was an act of great courage, acknowledging that the office demands more of him than he was able to do.”
Young added: “He’s given more freedom to future popes, and I think that’s a good thing.”
While the vast majority of popes have been of European descent, Clifford said there’s a possibility that may change with the selection of a new leader of the Catholic Church.
“There’s a good chance they might be looking outside Europe, given that today two-thirds of Catholics reside in southern hemisphere,” Clifford said.
She said Latin America and the Philippines have large Catholic populations while Africa is home to fastest-growing group of Catholics.
“It’s likely the cardinals could look to these regions to choose a new face for the papacy.”
With files from The Associated Press