Pope Celestine V (not to scale).
Dear Dr. Boli: The newspapers keep saying that the Vatican has no idea what to do with a retired pope. If that’s true, do you have any suggestions? —Sincerely, Paolo “Cardinal” Bernini, Vatican City.
Dear Sir: It is not true that the Vatican has no idea what to do with a retired pope. When Celestine V retired, a perfectly workable protocol was established: his successor immured him in an inaccessible cell in Rome until he rotted away, and then gave him a magnificent funeral. This protocol is still in effect, and there is no reason to deviate from it in the case of Benedict XVI. The only new question since Celestine’s time involves the pontifical ruby slippers, which magically return the pope to the Sistine Chapel once he has absorbed a suitable nugget of homespun philosophy. It has been decided that, as a corollary to the Celestine protocol, the retired pope must hand over the slippers.