What happens to a pope when he retires?
Nobody knows, of course, as no pope has left office
alive for 600 years. The Vatican doesn’t
know from mandatory retirement age, and the incumbents have all enjoyed the job
immensely. “I love it here,” some popes have
been heard to chortle. “Free board and
lodging, perks galore, lots of travel, and no funeral worries. They’ll have to carry me out of here feet
And that’s precisely the way they’ve all left. Until now.
Poor old Benedict, shortly to be reduced to plain old
Joe, will be leaving with his feet on the ground, slipping out of a side door
in an ill-fitting suit from his civilian days, lugging a battered old suitcase.
Where will he live?
Is he entitled to a room in a care home?
Or will he be given a grace-and-favour apartment in one of the leafier
suburbs of Vatican City? Does Vatican
City have leafy suburbs?
And what will he live on? I don’t suppose he gets a pension. I’m not sure if popes even get a salary,
which means he won’t have been paying his stamp all these years. It’s unlikely the Vatican City’s Department of Work and
Pensions has made a special provision for a papal resignation, assuming they
have any kind of pension scheme in the first place. They just didn’t see this coming, and, to be
fair, how could they have?
Perhaps he’ll go back home to Germany. At least he still has a family there, or at
any rate a brother. No wife, or kids, or
grandchildren, of course. And the
brother’s even older than Joe, so he may not be of much use helping with the
household chores. He’s going to have to
get someone in. That costs a pretty
pfennig in Germany
these days, even with all those Turks and Bulgarians floating around.
My guess, and hope, is that the cardinals, when they
get together for their Conclave, and before they get down to that business of
sending out smoke signals, will vote on some kind of legislation to ensure that
popes are looked after in their retirement years. Well, that’s what I think would be fair.
I’m probably worrying for nothing. Ben, I mean Joe, will probably write his
memoirs, and get a huge advance from Rupert Murdoch. It’s bound to be a best-seller, what with
the abuse scandals and all.
All we can do, meanwhile, is wish him well in
his sunset years. Welcome to the club,