PopeWatch: Pope Emeritus

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Sandro Magister reveals at his blog Chiesa the ongoing contact between Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus:

In his latest interview, with “Corriere della Sera,” Pope Francis has revealed that he has struck a deal with Joseph Ratzinger on a new role for the “pope emeritus,” unprecedented in the history of the Church:

“The pope emeritus is not a statue in a museum. It is an institution. We have not been accustomed to this. Sixty or seventy years ago, the bishop emeritus did not exist. It came after the Council. Today it is an institution. The same thing must happen for the pope emeritus.  Benedict is the first, and perhaps there will be others. We do not know. He is discrete, humble, he does not want to be a nuisance.  We have spoken about it and have decided together that it would be better that he see people, get out and participate in the life of the Church. [. . .]  Some may have wished that he would retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. I have thought of the grandparents who with their wisdom, their advice bring strength to the family and do not deserve to end up in a nursing home.”

No sooner said than done. A few days ago a book came with a previously unpublished text by Benedict XVI.  And this is not a matter of just any sort of text.  But of a judgment that  the last pope – under the reign of his successor – is pronouncing on his predecessor, John Paul II. A veritable public judgment not only on the person but on the central features of that memorable pontificate.

With accents that cannot help but be juxtaposed with the current situation of the Church.

Some media, in covering the news of this text by the “pope emeritus,” have emphasized the passage in which he recounts how the question of liberation theology was addressed in the first phase of Karol Wojtyla’s pontificate.

But there are other significant passages. Two in particular.

Go here to read the rest.  The Pope Emeritus is so careful that hopefully no harm will come of this.  If he were less careful and wise, PopeWatch would be quite concerned about this.  The office of Pope is unique, vast spiritual authority exercised by one man.  A retired Pope could quickly become a rallying point for all those discontented with the present Pope.  PopeWatch assumes that the Pope Emeritus will not allow himself to be used in this fashion, but the potential exists for much mischief when a retired Pope speaks or writes.  PopeWatch hopes that future popes will not emulate the Pope Emeritus in retiring, precisely because of the potential for Catholics hearing two different messages from Vicars of Christ.  During the Great Schism of 1378-1418 rival popes routinely excommunicate each other and that spectacle helped lead to unrest in the Church that paved the way for the Reformation.

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  1. Pope Benedict XVI as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger speaking at Pope Paul VI funeral.
    “This is why on many occasions he sought compromise: the faith leaves very much open, it offers a wide spectrum of decisions, it imposes as the parameter love, which feels obligated toward everything and therefore imposes great respect. This is why he was able to be inflexible and decisive when what was at stake was the essential tradition of the Church.”
    “…it imposes as the parameter, love,…” God is LOVE. The Holy Spirit Who proceeds from the Father and the Son is pure and perfect LOVE.

  2. A retired Pope could quickly become a rallying point for all those discontented with the present Pope.

    I seem to recall Celestine V did not last long after his abdication.

    People are less likely to be discontented if the present Pope is not sticking his hoof in it over and over. Imagine Francis had been in the Chair of Peter in December of 1965 and charged with coping with the gale force winds hitting the Church at that time. Perhaps the Vatican diplomat then Pope was the best we could have done.

  3. I am not concerned that Pope Emeritus has published. He is retired but still has wisdom to share as do many other thoughtful cardinals and bishops. The world knows who is pope and who is not. As for hearing two different messages, I not concerned here either. Truth cannot contradict itsel. If the messages are doctrinal Pope Francis has the protection of the Holy Spirit. And I completely trust Pope Emeritus’ conscience as a herald of truth. So I don’t expect any conflict. As you say, though, disgruntled people could try to whip up a storm. That is always possible.

  4. While I share the concerns Donald put forward, I would remind all that the Papacy, the bishop of Rome and Successor of Saint Peter is an office and not a sacrament. In other words when a man is ordained a bishop, he is changed fundamentally if the fullness of apostolic and holy orders-for ever.. When a bishop (usually Cardinal) becomes “pope” he assumes an office, that is his until he resigns or until death.

    This is new for the Church but having retired ‘ordinaries’ is no longer new for the Church. The retired ‘ordinary’ might be in good health, even able to help with confirmations etc. but he is no longer the ordinary of the diocese. He of course is a bishop, but is not really much different within the diocese than an auxiliary bishop. Benedict [and I am a huge fan-in fact I will say, I love the man] is not the pope emeritus. He is the retired pope, yes, but in actuality he is on the practical level of the other Cardinals.

    If people want to divide from the Church etc they will always find a reason and a way. That is the sad commentary on the effects of original sin still active within ‘the community of the redeemed’ [an image of the Church which Benedict loved]

  5. I say with botolph also that I love our Pope Emeritus. What a gentle and loving, gifted and willing follower of Father Son and Holy Spirit.
    This is the feast day of his Patron, Saint Joseph. St. Joseph pray for us all, and especially today for Joseph Ratzinger.
    Thank you St Jospeh patron of the Church.

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