In the various colleges of the prelature, “once the exercise of the authority of the college, such as the judicial and administrative authority, was renounced, the aggregation and privileges were preserved, even though the jurisdiction was no longer exercised,” he said.
And so it would be for the pope emeritus, who "no longer exercises authority, but retains aggregation and privileges," and therefore also the white cassock, he said.
While no set ceremonial structure exists for the funeral of a pope emeritus, Sanchirico believes the event will “most likely be celebrated with the characteristics reserved for the reigning Pope: the coffin, the insertion in the coffin of the deed indicating the official acts of the papacy, coins for his papacy, and medals of the pontificate.”
In the same way, he said, “the Pope will be buried like a pope, that is, in the Vatican grottoes, and the place where John Paul II's tomb was would already have been indicated, before he was canonized and the tomb moved to the basilica.”
What will be missing, he pointed out, are “the elements linked to the transfer of papal power, and therefore linked to the beginning of the vacant seat.”
Notably, the Secretariat of State will not relinquish his office, as happens when a reigning pope dies. For this reason, Sanchirico explained, one can expect that it will be the Secretariat of State who announces the death of the pope emeritus, probably using the Press Office of the Holy See, which is the means of official communications.
Relatedly, condolences “should be addressed to the reigning Pope through the Secretariat of State,” the monsignor said.
Why shouldn’t condolences be addressed directly to the pope?
“This public aspect,” Sanchirico explained, “results from the fact that the Secretariat of State is today erroneously conceived as a Papal Secretariat, but it is forgotten that in 1973 it absorbed the duties of the Apostolic Chancellery, a body delegated for centuries to the public correspondence of the dicasteries of the Holy headquarters, such as the bulls of appointment of bishops.”
Other ceremonial details, such as the arrangements for heads of state who wish to attend the funeral, remain an open question, the monsignor acknowledged.
And what of “novendiali,” that is, the nine days of mourning following the death of a pope?
(Story continues below)
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The novendiali consists of a series of solemn Masses for the repose of the pope's soul, beginning with the pope’s funeral Mass, that precede the General Congregations, or pre-conclave meetings.
Regardless of whether the novendiali is observed in Benedict’s case, his funeral would take place within a few days of his death. As with other ceremonial details surrounding the death of a pope emeritus, we must wait to see what transpires.
Andrea Gagliarducci is an Italian journalist for Catholic News Agency and Vatican analyst for ACI Stampa. He is a contributor to the National Catholic Register.