Now What? A Papal Puzzle

You have no doubt heard that Pope Benedict announced his retirement. He is stepping Pope Benedict XVI wears a red hat as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the  Vaticandown for health reasons and is the first pope to do so in over 600 years. He must be really sick. I feel bad for him not just because he’s ill but because there’s probably no papal retirement plan in effect. Since this hasn’t happened since 1415 when Pope Gregory XII retired to spend more time with the family, nobody ever thought about a retirement plan for a job from which no one retires. Now they have to figure out what to do with an unemployed pope with no benefits.

For starters, where is he going to live? The new pope will no doubt get the corporate condo so where is the old pope supposed to go? There is no Old
Pope’s Home. Will he have to room with the new Pope? If so, wouldn’t that make a great sitcom idea. Two and a half Popes.

What about health and dental insurance? Does an ex-pope still qualify or will he have to go on COBRA for a while? And what about a pension. Is there a papal pension? They have to at least give him rent and living expenses. Perhaps a separate collection could be taken in churches worldwide for the pope’s retirement fund.

Also, I want to know what happens to the pope’s stuff. Does he get to keep the fancy hat and the red shoes? Will there be a papal estate sale to sell off his stuff before he moves out? You might get a deal on an incense burner.

At least he gave two weeks notice but that doesn’t give the cardinals much time to come up with a replacement. Pretty soon they’ll all get locked in the conclave and wheel and deal to come up with a new boss. Nobody on the outside knows what goes on in the conclave but I envision them smoking cigars and trading promises. All we have to go by on the outside is the plume of white smoke indicating that they are still smoking cigars.

I don’t know who is in the running for the next pope but I might suggest somebody like Mel Gibson. We know he’s Catholic and he does bring a certain star power to the job. Who knows, he might get a whole new generation of Catholics interested in the church.

Another idea might be Mitt Romney. Oh sure, he’s a Mormon, but this is the guy who fixed the Winter Olympics for crying out loud. It’s the same God, just different saints. I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it.

Of course tradition will demand that the next pope come from the current college of Cardinals so the Cardinals who want the gig are out pressing the flesh and making deals with their brethren to get the nomination and the nod.

Meantime, the gift shops in Vatican City are marking down all of the the Pope Benedict merchandise and getting ready for a new influx of products like Pope (your name here) coffee cups, t-shirts, and the always popular Pope Soap-On-A-Rope.


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