Apostles has become a traveling missionary–reaching out to the entire world. John Paul II showed the apostolic power of the pope in a fresh and dynamic way. He became the predominant religious leader in the world. Benedict XVI showed that he understood this new development by calling his trips around the world “apostolic journeys.” Benedict did his best to step into the shoes of global evangelist, but this role can really only be carried by a man young and energetic enough to endure the rigors of travel and the difficulties of being a global mass media personality.
With Benedict’s retirement, what may develop, is a papacy with two parts. A pope emeritus who is a theologian and man of prayer–a man with over forty years experience of the papacy, the Vatican and all its workings, and therefore a man who remembers and can advise and guide the younger man.
Remember the role of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. After her husband died she became a senior member of the English royal family, a trusted adviser to the queen, a friend of the young royals and a fixed point of continuity and tradition. The senior pope–papa emeritus–becomes just that: a senior adviser, a friend and counselor and an advocate and supporter of his successor.
A man more driven by ambition and ego than Joseph Ratzinger may find such a role impossible. He will not. A man of his intellect and creativity will be able to function in exactly this role as an elder statesman–a wise retired abbot and a theological and ecclesial consultant.