By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who retired from the papacy in 2013, passed away over the weekend on New Year’s Eve. Due to the uniqueness of the situation, the death of a retired Pope has caused consternation and confusion among the world’s Catholic institutions. Luc Cyr, Archbishop of Sherbrooke, was unavailable for comment, but Eliane Thibeault, the communications coordinator for the diocese, said the Cathedral and other Catholic parishes were asking, “What now?”
While there are long-established protocols for the proper mourning of a sitting Pope, given that it’s been 600 years since a Pope stepped aside, no one really knows what to do now that he’s died. According to Thibeault, Church officials are questioning how to properly honour his memory as Pope when he wasn’t the Pope at death (there is concern about respecting the current Pontiff, Pope Francis). Normally, there is an elaborate and formal sequence of events followed each time a Pope dies, starting at the highest levels of the Vatican.
When Benedict first announced his retirement, there was confusion, concern, and intrigue among scholars and theologians about what having “two” Popes in the modern era would be like. Generally speaking, Popes who didn’t serve until their natural death were controversial figures who reigned during times of strife in the Church.