In his letter, Pope Benedict announced that he would step down from “the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter, entrusted to me by the cardinals on April 19, 2005, in such a way, that as from Feb. 28, 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter, will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff …”
The Pope signed his letter of resignation “BENEDICTUS PP. XVI,” and Bishop Paprocki noted that it “simply means that he is the sixteenth pope by the name ‘Benedict.’ That is a historical fact that will never change.”
Term of Endearment
Bishop Paprocki then suggested that Catholics should view the word “pope” as “an honorific, even a term of endearment (‘papa’ in Italian). It is not the title of an ecclesiastical office.”
Thus, just as Catholics continue to call a priest “Father,” even though “he has resigned from the office of pastor,” so Italians probably “will continue to call Pope Benedict Papa Benedetto even after he leaves office as the Bishop of Rome,” predicted the bishop, who lived in Rome for three and a half years while studying canon law.
“I don’t think people will have a hard time wrapping their minds around having a pope who is no longer the Roman pontiff, bishop of Rome, etc. Certainly, in direct address, one would never address him as anything but ‘Your Holiness.’”
That said, Bishop Paprocki added that it “would be best to know what Pope Benedict himself wants to be called after February 28, and I hope he will tell us.”
While some experts have said that the Pope should be called “Cardinal Ratzinger” after he formally resigns, Bishop Paprocki did not think term seemed “correct.”
“If he had resigned before reaching the age of 80, after which a cardinal may no longer vote in a papal conclave, I do not think he would have, should have or could have donned a red cassock and entered the conclave in the Sistine Chapel to vote for his successor.
“Instead, at 8pm Rome time on Feb. 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI will have a new identity to which we will have to become accustomed: His Holiness, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, former Roman/supreme pontiff, bishop emeritus of Rome.”
Read more: National Catholic Register