I am truly sorry to hear that you are planning on retirement. I had hoped that we might have a few more years of mutual support and collaboration.
Three Popes simultaneously will, of course, be a novelty for us Anglicans to wrap our minds around!
But we do have plenty of experience of retired Archbishops. I have two living predecessors – and to tell the truth it’s a mixed blessing.
Rowan, of course, is conspicuously well-behaved. Which is a good job because he is a great deal cleverer than me. (You will understand my position entirely). George, on the other hand, is a pain in the episcopal neck. He has opinions about everything and no shame in declaring them. I wouldn’t mind; but he lost the plot years ago, poor thing, and his determination to hang around on the lunatic fringe of public life is a real problem.
I speak as a friend when I say that I am not at all convinced that you are cut out to be a Pontifical retiree. I mean, could you keep your mouth shut? Which after all is the prime requirement. Of course, you can stack the College of Cardinals and ensure that you get a like-minded successor. (Popes are the only people living who can manufacture their own life after death.) But are you cut out to be a pious recluse?
My advice is: don’t do it. Death in office, followed almost instantly by beatification is hugely to be prefered. And I am sure that you can engineer a successor who will do that for you.
I hope you will treat this advice as confidential. The Vatican is a wicked place, as far as I can see. Leaks, dear boy!
Your friend and confidant,