Archive for February 11, 2013

What Canon Law Says about Papal Resignations

Posted in America Magazine, The Papal Watcher with tags , , , on February 11, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

pope_benedict No, a Pope does not have to die to leave office (I’ve been getting that question a lot this morning). Over at America magazine’s blog, In All Things, I’ve highlighted some of the canonical grounding for this decision of Pope Benedict XVI to resign from office and the reasons why it has unfolded the way it has.

For those who are interested, perhaps the best-known example of a pope resigning was in 1294 when Pope Celestine V (d. 1296) resigned from his office. Benedict XVI is the first in several centuries. According to the Code of Canon Law (CIC) this right of the Roman Pontiff falls under Canon 332, no. 2, which reads: “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” This helps to explain the timing of the Pope’s decision, which is an act that can only take place when he is still of sound mind and body.

As for the delivery of this news to the cardinals in attendance this morning, some canon law scholars believe this is essential in assuring the legitimacy of the resignation. According to canonist Knut Walf, “The resignation from office of the pope must be sufficiently manifested and requires no acceptance ‘by anyone.’ The recipient of the ‘manifestation’ is not specified. Some commentators are of the opinion that the college of cardinals or its dean as the competent electoral body must be informed of the resignation” (New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, eds. J. Beal, J. Coriden, and T. Green [2000] p. 438). Needless to say, this is a very important announcement of great historical significance.

The process here is not unlike the retirement of any other bishop (don’t forget, the Pope is first and foremost the Bishop of Rome, as Canon 331 refers to him: “The bishop of the Roman Church”), with the caveat that the Pope does not answer to anyone, so there is no “technical” recipient of his resignation. All other bishops resign to him.

Photo: File

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign from Office?

Posted in The Papal Watcher with tags , , , on February 11, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

POPE-popupAccording to early EST morning wire service reports, it appears as though Pope Benedict XVI is planning to resign, making him the first pope in modern history to make such a move. Reuters reports:

ROME, Feb 11 (Reuters) – Pope Benedict said on Monday he will resign on Feb 28 because he no longer has the strength to fulfil the duties of his office, becoming the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to take such a step.

The 85-year-old pope said he had noticed that his strength had deteriorated over recent months “to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me”.

“For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter,” he said according to a statement from the Vatican.

A Vatican spokesman said the pontiff would step down from 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, leaving the office vacant until a successor is chosen.

According to Vatican Radio’s website, here is the full text of the Pope’s address.

Dear Brothers,
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

Obviously, more to come on this topic…

Photo: File
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