Pope Benedict XVI will have 'pontiff emeritus' title: Vatican

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI will have the official title of "pontiff emeritus" after he resigns on Thursday -- the first leader of the Catholic Church to do so since the Middle Ages, the Vatican said.

Benedict can still be addressed as "Your Holiness Benedict XVI" and will have the title of "Roman Pontiff Emeritus", spokesman Federico Lombardi told the Vatican press corps today.

Benedict can also still wear a white cassock normally reserved only for pontiffs and will continue using the shoes given to him by artisans in Mexico during a trip last year, Lombardi said.

The Vatican spokesman also said a series of meetings of cardinals to settle on a date for the start of a conclave to elect Benedict's successor could start on Monday, March 4.

Lombardi said the pope had already sorted between the official documents from his papacy that will remain in the Vatican and personal notes that he will take with him into retirement.

Benedict holds a final general audience in St Peter's Square tomorrow before he officially steps down on Thursday.

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