Pope Benedict XVI will continue to be addressed as Your Holiness, will acquire the title of pope emeritus and will dress in public in a white papal cassock after he steps down at the end of this month, the Vatican said Tuesday.
The decision on how Joseph Ratzinger will be addressed was made “mainly” by the pope himself after consulting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who is in charge of managing the Catholic Church until a new pontiff is chosen, and other senior clerics, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
Lombardi also said that Benedict XVI will leave the Vatican’s Pontifical Palace at 4:55 p.m. Thursday and then board a helicopter for the trip to Castel Gandolfo, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Rome.
Once at the papal residence, Benedict will greet the faithful from the balcony in what will be his last public act.
The most probable scenario is that the first meeting of cardinals to choose a new pope will be held starting on March 4.
Benedict XVI went about his daily activities as always on Tuesday. It was a day on which he had no audiences and he devoted himself to praying and reading documents, as well as to preparing for the move and determining what documents he will take with him.
Ratzinger will take private documents and personal notes to Castel Gandolfo, while those belonging to the pontificate and those from the period during which he was prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will remain at the Vatican to be archived.
Wednesday will mark the final public audience of Benedict’s papacy. More than 50,000 free entry passes have been distributed for the event in St. Peter’s Square and it is expected that double that number ultimately will be handed out.
Lombardi emphasized that thousands of messages from all over the world have been coming in to the pope in which people are expressing their gratitude and feelings of closeness to him.