Friday, February 15, 2013

Old Pope's New House

Built in the early 1990s, the convent Mater Ecclesiae is surely one of the newest buildings in the Vatican City.  It is also, from the few reports we have had, among the plainest.  But renovations are already under way, and at 4300 square feet, it will no doubt make a spacious retirement villa for Benedict XVI when he begins life as the Bishop Emeritus of Rome.

John Paul II had the convent built so that there would be a team of nuns supporting him with prayer.  It was not the fixed home of a single community, however.  Instead, specific orders were asked to send a team to live there in rotating five-year shifts.  (The most recent group, the Order of the Visitation, was only invited for three years, which raises some questions about just far ahead long Benedict may have planned his renunciation.)

We don't suppose that nuns will continue to live there, apart from any who may wind up part of the personal household of the Emeritus.  (Including, no doubt, Gorgeous Georg Ganswein. UPDATE:  Yeah, he's moving too.)  We wonder if the house will be given a new name -- the Ratzinger Residence or something classier, like Domus Coelestini.

There's been quite a bit of speculation in the press, much of it absurd, about the effect that the presence of a former pope may have upon a new one.  (Daily Mail:  "Now There Will be TWO Popes?"  Somebody smack them.)  While we generally believe that old pastors ought to retire outside their former parish, this may be a notable exception.  Inside the Vatican, access to the Emeritus can be pretty effectively controlled -- this protects him from curiosity-seekers, and protects his successor from the possibility of a loose cannon, prattling on to any reporter or graduate student who drops by the house.

We gather it's a bit of a fixer-upper.  Some water in the basement, drafty windows, and a little snow damage to the terrace.  But there's a fruit and vegetable garden next door, so he won't get hungry.  And, along with its own chapel, the place is a few yards from St. Peter's, so he can walk to church.

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