Is he resigning or retiring?  The answer is in  the semantics that surround the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI will step down officially on Thursday, February 28th - the first pontiff to do so since the Middle Ages.  It's natural to wonder what will happen to the Pope afterwards?

First off - is he still called "Pope Benedict XVI" or not?  Well, no one really knows for sure as there isn't a great body of precedence in this situation.  "Benedict" is a name that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger assumed upon his ascension (if you'll pardon the choice of words) to the role in 2005.  While he will no longer be the Pope per se, tradition and reverence might suggest that his papal name might continue with him.

One  other issue that has come up is whether or not Pope Benedict XVI will play a role in naming his successor.  The answer to that question is no.  First - at 85, he's too old to take part in  the conclave (Cardinals must be under the age of 80 to vote on a Pope).  Secondly, membership in the conclave is left to cardinals - which is not a sacramental role;  Benedict's role as a Pope trumped his cardinal status, and he will not automatically follow a path back  to being a cardinal - he would have to be named a cardinal by the next Pope.

For a web source for more information on what becomes of Pope Benedict XVI after he resigns/retires from the papal chair, click here.