Benedict XVI to become 'pope emeritus'

  • Benedict XVI will be known as "pope emeritus" and will retain the title "His Holiness" after he abdicates on Thursday, according to Vatican officials.

    He will also still be known by his papal title of Benedict XVI rather than revert to Joseph Ratzinger.

    He will also continue to wear his distinctive white cassock but without a cape or trimmings.

    Speculation has been rife over the pope's title and what he would wear ever since Benedict announced two weeks ago he would resign, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years.

    While he will continue to wear his white cassock, he will surrender his gold ring of office, known as the fisherman's ring. His personal seal will also be destroyed in the same way as when a pope dies.

    Benedict XVI will also stop wearing his trademark red loafers, instead choosing to wear brown shoes hand made for him by a Mexican craftsman during a brief visit to Mexico last year.

    Benedict will hold his final public general audience in St Peter's Square later today.

    On Thursday, he is expected to spend his final hours at his Vatican residence with his cardinals who have been his closest aides during his eight-year pontificate.

    He will then fly by helicopter at 5pm to Castel Gandolfo, the papal residence south of Rome and greet parishioners from the balcony of the palace, his final public act as pope.

    At 8pm, the exact time at which his retirement becomes official, the Swiss Guards standing outside the doors of the palace will go off duty, marking the end of their service to protect the head of the Catholic church.

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