Benedict XVI will keep his name and still be addressed as "his holiness" after he resigns
He will give up the red mantle and shoes of the pope and dress in a simple white robe
As he leaves office at 8 p.m. Thursday, the Swiss Guards will leave Castel Gandolfo
Cardinals are already gathering in Rome ahead of their meeting to choose the pope's successor
With only two full days left of Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy, more details emerged Tuesday of what the future holds both for the retiring pontiff and the cardinals who will choose his successor.
The pontiff will keep the name Benedict XVI and still be addressed as “his holiness” once he retires, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told reporters at the Vatican.
He will also be known as pope emeritus, emeritus pope or Roman pontifex emeritus.
The guidance clears up questions about how Benedict – the first pope to resign in almost 600 years – should be addressed as he moves into a life of seclusion and prayer after his Thursday resignation.
Benedict will hold his final general audience Wednesday, for which 50,000 tickets have been given out, Lombardi said, though many more people than that could show up.
Benedict will arrive in his Popemobile, which will drive around St. Peter’s Square among the faithful before the pope gives the address. He won’t give the usual brief personal greetings to people afterward but will meet delegations of heads of state in Vatican City later.
Benedict will meet with the cardinals who are already in Rome on Thursday morning.
The 85-year-old will then be flown by helicopter to Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence near Rome, in the afternoon. The church bell will toll and he will make his very last public appearance, greeting crowds from a balcony there.
At the moment that Benedict’s papacy ends, at 8 p.m. local time, the Swiss Guards – the soldiers who for more than five centuries have protected the pope and his residence – will leave the gates of Castel Gandolfo. He will from that point have Vatican police protection instead.
Benedict will stay there until work to restore a monastery within the Vatican grounds is completed later in the spring.
Meanwhile, the cardinals who must elect the new pope are already gathering in Rome, Lombardi said.
The dean cardinal will on March 1 summon the cardinals to a general congregation, Lombardi said. That could come as soon as March 4, although the date is not yet fixed.
The cardinals will then decide exactly when to hold the conclave, during which they vote for the new pontiff.
Special prayers will be said during the “sede vacante,” or empty seat, period, seeking guidance for the election of the new pope. The cardinals will lead the prayers.
After his resignation, Benedict – who cited the frailty of age as the reason he resigned – will no longer use the Fisherman’s Ring, the symbol of the pope, Lombardi said. The ring will be destroyed, along with Benedict’s papal seal, after his departure from office.
He will wear a simple white cassock, without the customary red mantle of the pontiff. He will also no longer wear red shoes, probably adopting instead the brown shoes that he received as a gift in Leon, Mexico, during a trip last year.
Benedict shocked the Roman Catholic world when he announced his resignation two weeks ago.
His final week in office has been clouded by scandal, with allegations swirling in the Italian media that gay clergy may have made themselves vulnerable to blackmail by male prostitutes.
The Vatican vehemently denied the allegations Saturday.
Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone said it was “deplorable” that as the time for the Roman Catholic cardinals to elect a new pope approaches, a rash of “often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories” has appeared.
Benedict also moved up the resignation Monday of a Scottish archbishop linked over the weekend by a British newspaper to inappropriate relationships with priests.
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the archbishop of Scotland, told the pope in November that he would resign effective on his 75th birthday, on March 17.
But Benedict decided to make the resignation effective immediately in light of the pope’s imminent resignation, the Scottish Catholic Media Office said.
The announcement came a day after a report by the British Sunday newspaper The Observer that three priests and one former priest leveled allegations against O’Brien that date back 30 years.
Speaking in London on Tuesday, one of Britain’s most senior Roman Catholics, the former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, described the circumstances of O’Brien’s resignation as “very sad.”
Murphy-O’Connor said that it was O’Brien’s decision to step down and that he had not been forced or asked to do so. He described O’Brien as a “very honest man.”
An apostolic administrator, most likely a senior bishop, will examine the allegations against O’Brien, Murphy-O’Connor said.
He also said he was in no doubt that there needs to be reform within the Roman Catholic Church and that the issues being raised now need to be addressed “at the highest level.”
CNN’s Hada Messia reported from Rome and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. Jo Shelley contributed to this report.