What Does a Pope Get When He Retires?

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What kind of retirement package does an abdicating pope receive? There is no historic precedent, but according to the Italian daily La Stampa, the 85 year-old Pope Benedict XVI will receive a monthly pension worth 2,500 euros a month (about $3,340) once he steps down on Feb. 28.

The first pontiff to retire in six centuries, Benedict XVI has left canon lawyers and Vatican officials with plenty of doubt. Dealing with an abrupt resignation and not a sudden death, the Holy See has yet to determine Benedict’s new title, the color of his new dress and whether he will keep the name Benedict or return to his birth name of Joseph Ratzinger.

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Most likely, he will get the title of Bishop Emeritus of Rome, qualifying him for the €2,500 pension.

The former leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will get half of what a retired cardinal is entitled to receive, although it is possible that the next pope grants Benedict the title of emeritus cardinal.

“In this case, his monthly income would double to €5,000,” La Stampa wrote.

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Readers’ comments on Italian websites wondered what Benedict would need the money for, since he plans to spend his days praying and studying theology. Moreover, all of his needs will be paid for by the Vatican.

Benedict will stay at the papal summer retreat at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, for about two months before moving to his new home, a former nunnery near the Vatican gardens. He will have a group of four women from a Catholic organization to take care of cooking, cleaning and other home activities.

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The former pope will have to leave most of his belongings in the Vatican, apart from a piano, a collection of pottery cats, some private papers, books and personal effects.

When a pope dies, the papal rooms are sealed, so that all documents, books and confidential papers are transferred to the Vatican Secret Archives where they have to remain unpublished for a certain number of years — or forever. Benedict’s papers and documents will face the same fate.

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As for the “Fisherman’s Ring” worn by Benedict XVI, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that it would probably be “terminated” soon after the resignation.

According to tradition, Fishermen’s Rings were used by pontiffs to put their official wax seals on documents. At a pope’s death, the ring was destroyed with a hammer or melted or scratched, so that no fake documents could be made in the pope’s name.

Depicting Saint Peter pulling up his net from a boat, Benedict’s chunky ring contains 1.23 ounces (35 grams) of gold. Benedict XVI was the first pope since the 19th century to commission a Fisherman’s Ring.

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On Feb. 28 he will be the first pope to leave the papacy by helicopter.

“Such a departure will be a historic event,” Mons. Edoardo Maria Viganò, director of the Vatican Television Centre, told the Italian news agency ANSA.

He added that virtually every moment of Pope Benedict XVI’s last day as pontiff will be recorded.

Image: Pope Benedict XVI wearing the Fisherman’s Ring. Credit: David Bohrer/Wikimedia Commons