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P1030173I make it a habit in my blogging and other writing to avoid any hot topic being beaten about in the news. As the resignation of a pope only comes along every six hundred years or so, I think I can put that rule aside this once. But only to provide some answers for fielding questions from curious friends and family.

As soon as the monthly family dinner is underway the question will arise, ‘so, like can a pope retire?’, followed by “What happens to him?” and, finally, “What happens in that voting thing they do?” Being the resident Catholic at the table, I will eventually notice a silence and look up from the task at hand, i.e. stuffing my gob, to see everyone staring at me.

01300017Short answer to the first one is, well, this pope is resigning so it follows, yes, a pope can resign.  If the only way for a  pope to leave office was in cypress, lead and elm, trust me, this is one pope who would stick to the rules regardless of his personal feelings.

I’ll go into the history of papal resignations, deposings and other colourful moments in a follow-up post.

P1030100What happens to His Holiness, Benedict XVI, or any pope retiring from the Holy See? There have been a whole host of amusing scenarios posited by comedy programs. Some tastefully gentle in their ribbing, others in harsher, prejudicial and deliberately denigrating portrayals.

Benedict XVI, once he has resigned, will seek a life of prayer and contemplation.

Again, a follow up post will look at a bit more background because historically the political landscape and scope of authority of the Vatican has changed just a bit in the intervening centuries since Gregory XII.

Oh, and there’s the answer to another question we’ll probably be fielding. Gregory XII in 1415.

P1030176Finally, the voting thing. Otherwise and officially known as a conclave. Again, this is a huge thing and way more than this wee post can present. In the interests of keeping it short I’m going to stop here. This is a little bit of information and I know it is insufficient but it is a start. There will be much more to follow.

See why I make it a rule not to comment on current events?