PopeWatch: Pope Emeritus

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John Allen, from his new perch as a Boston Globe columnist, notes recent actions taken in support of Pope Francis by the Pope Emeritus:


First, his closest aide and confidante, German Archbishop Georg Gänswein, gave an interview to the Reuters news agency on Feb. 9 in which he insisted there’s “a good feeling” between Francis and Benedict, and that the two men see one another often.

Second, Benedict XVI made a surprise appearance at a Feb. 22 consistory ceremony in which Francis elevated 19 new cardinals into the church’s most exclusive club, sitting in the front row and beaming during the event.

When Francis made his way over to wrap Benedict in a hug, the pope emeritus removed his white zucchetto, a skullcap that’s one of the symbols of the papal office — a small gesture that told insiders he was acknowledging Francis as the new boss.

Third, Benedict responded in writing to questions by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli concerning speculation that he’d been pressured to step down and therefore his resignation was invalid under church law. Following that reasoning to its logical conclusion, it would suggest that Francis isn’t really the pope.

Benedict dismissed the hypothesis as “simply absurd.”

“I took this step in full awareness of its gravity and novelty but with profound serenity of spirit,” Benedict wrote in comments published Feb. 26. “Loving the church also means having the courage to make difficult, painful choices, always keeping the good of the church in mind and not ourselves.”

Fourth, Gänswein, who still acts as Benedict’s private secretary and who lives with the former pope in a monastery on Vatican grounds, gave another interview to the Washington Post in which he said the two pontiffs didn’t know one another well at the beginning but are becoming steadily closer.

Go here to read the rest.  Now, just imagine if the Pope Emeritus were right now airing differences he had with Pope Francis and imagine the chaos within the Church that would result.  That possibility, along with many other reasons, is why PopeWatch believes the retirement of a Pope is a very bad idea and hopes that Pope Benedict’s retirement will not be something his successors emulate.

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  1. ” . . .the retirement of a Pope is a very bad idea and hopes that Pope Benedict’s retirement will not be something his successors emulate.”

    I agree.

  2. I can’t say one way or the other that future papal resignations would be a good idea, but definitely a Pope Emeritus who does not follow the example of humility that Benedict is setting would be very bad for the Church. Just imagine the scandal of such dissention! Thanks to the media and the internet it would be worse than the papal schisms of Avignon and Pisa, even if the actual words and deeds were minor by comparison.

    One thing about the resignation that I find positive is that it undermines many of the nasty criticisms of Benedict. Not that he or any pope should resign in the face of criticism – far from it! – but I love to see his critics proved wrong.

    In the matters of the resignation and election of a Pope we can only pray for God’s inspiration and direction. The fact that God’s will can be manifest in the actions of good but imperfect men should be seen as a comfort for us all.

  3. Wow “….just imagine if the Pope Emeritus were right now airing differences he had with Pope Francis and imagine the chaos within the Church that would result. “. That opens some interesting possible concerns for me.
    Is it that the pope Emeritous would not have freedom to express his real and deeply held concern, if such were to be the case. Would he have the duty to speak or the duty to keep silent ? Would he have to choose Order over Truth?

  4. Good questions, Anzlyne. Cardinals, especially the papabile, must face the same issues from time to time to some (hopefully small) degree. It is all likely resolved the same way: Order and Truth both get served, in private.

  5. Anzlyne,

    It would not and never should be ‘order over truth’, but always ‘truth with charity’ and that is expressed in communion. Communion is what we all need and should strive for-from the ‘last’ member of the Church to the ‘first’

  6. I agree Botolph there shouldn’t be a conflict between Truth and Order! God IS Truth and we see His mark of Order in everything He has revealed of Himself. We know there is no contradiction in God. …and Justice and Peace shall kiss .., but not in this temporal world
    My thoughts were just about a hypothetical bind possible for a pope Emeritus who strongly disagreed with the pope and how obliged he would be to speak or to keep silence in order not to unleash chaos ( or you might say- Protestantism ). Sorry. My own wacky sense of humor there
    And of course you are right. Communion is the answer.

  7. On the other hand, what if Benedict were as nasty as the press thinks, and Francis were as liberal as they think, and Francis stepped down too, and then a new pope was elected and the three of them had to live under the same roof at St. Peter’s! And they had a sassy African-American secretary who wouldn’t take no lip from any of them. And the janitor is a Muslim fundamentalist who keeps trying to kill them. My Three Popes, coming this fall on ABC.

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