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Zeitgeist: Pope Benedict to Have His Number Retired, Sparking Debate among Vatican Fans

In the wake of Pope Benedict's sudden retirement announcement, the Vatican has released a controversial plan to retire his number next season.

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VATICANVILLE (AP) _ Last week's news of the impending retirement of Pope Benedict XVI sent shockwaves through the Roman Catholic world. The Vatican's plan to retire his number is sure to cause even more.

The church announced it will retire Benedict's "16" in a pre-mass ceremony next season, honoring a pope that spent only eight years with the Vatican. It was one of several shocking revelations from the pope this week, which included news of a pacemaker, emergency surgery and a fondness for sombreros.

Benedict was named pope in 2005 after a 23-year-career with the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, and some vocal observers feel that taking his number of out circulation is premature and strictly a public relations move.

"Seven years is not a long time for a pope to serve. And retiring his number is simply ridiculous," sportstalk radio personality Guglielmo Paisano told RAI Italia news. "Pius IX served for 31 years. John Paul II reigned for 26. Now, those were true franchise popes!

"In my house I have kept cheeses longer than seven years."

Pope Benedict, born Joseph Ratzinger in Marktl, Germany in 1927, announced he will be stepping down at the end of this month. He was known as a conservative yet innovative pope, having started a Twitter account (@pontefix) and voicing characters in several films by computer animation wizards Pixar.

The Vatican has retired seven numbers - I, II, III, VI, VII, VIII, IX and XIII - all of them worn by the 10 longest serving pontiffs (the number I was worn by three - Adrian, St. Sylvester and St. Leo). Benedict would be the shortest reigning pope to have his number retired and the first to have it done the season immediately following his leaving office.

"The Vatican typically waits years before honoring a pope's number," said Paisano. "This is simply a made for television event. There are many other popes more worthy of having their numbers retired before Benedict's, God bless him."

Piasano cited John XXII and Sixtus IV as pontiffs that should have already had their numbers raised to the rafters at St. Peter's Basilica.

Benedict issued a statement through the Vatican saying that he was humbled and grateful for all it has done for him. He called the Catholic church a, "first class organization" and said they had a young, talented core of potential popes that are capable of many great seasons in the future.

Longtime Avalanche defenseman Raymond Bourque offered a rebuttal of Paisano's claims, telling RDS in Canada that the Vatican is well within its rights to retire any number they see fit as long as the Holy See was a valuable member of its team.

"I mean, who cares?," said Bourque from his home on Mt. Olympus, Colo. "They wanna hang his number, go ahead. It's just a way for someone to look up and tell their kid, 'That guy was a heck of a player.'

"Make some son-of-a-bitch on the team pick another number. Boo hoo. Grow a pair."


This is a parody. It has nothing to do with the hockey or the Islanders or anything, really. But sometimes a picture is all you need.