PopeWatch: Retirement




In flying back from the Middle East, Pope Francis made a response to a question that has not received much attention:

After a grueling but ultimately successful three-day visit to one of the most complicated regions on the planet, the idea of retirement probably sounded pretty good to Francis. So it is no surprise that when reporters traveling with him on the papal plane asked if he would consider resigning like his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, he said he wouldn’t rule it out.

“I will do what the Lord tells me to do. Pray and try to follow God’s will. Benedict XVI no longer had the strength and honestly, as a man of faith, humble as he is, he took this decision,” Francis said, according to a transcript of his press conference published in La Stampa’s Vatican Insider. “Seventy years ago, popes emeritus didn’t exist. What will happen with popes emeritus? We need to look at Benedict XVI as an institution, he opened a door, that of the popes emeritus. The door is open, whether there will be others, only God knows. I believe that if a bishop of Rome feels he is losing his strength, he must ask himself the same questions Pope Benedict XVI did.”

Go here to read the rest at The Daily Beast.  PopeWatch hopes that Pope Francis does not follow the example of Pope Benedict.  A Pope Emeritus sets the stage for disagreement between the sitting Pope and the retired Pope with potentially disastrous consequences for the Church.  Pope Benedict has been quite silent and discreet, but I do not think Pope Francis would, or could, follow his example.  One of his patented free-wheeling interviews as Pope Emeritus, and the divisions created within the Church could be severe, especially with the media certain to hype any seeming conflict with the sitting Pope.  Pope Benedict set a very bad modern precedent by retiring, and if Pope Francis does it too, it would become almost expected for the pope to no longer be a lifetime office, but rather one to be retired from.  That changes the nature of the office and the role of the pope in the Church.  Nothing but evil can come about if such retirements become part and parcel of the papacy.

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  1. At first I thought to myself that it would be wonderful if Pope Francis retired – right now. Then after reading this blog post in its entirety, I came to the conclusion that far more damage would be done by a retired Pope Francis that a sitting one.


    Back to praying that the Holy Spirit guides the Pope.

  2. I think that what he said was entirely right. It would have been bizarre if he said that popes can’t, or shouldn’t, retire. I appreciate that he credited Benedict’s decision to his humility. I don’t like the idea of papal retirement, and I hope it doesn’t become an expectation, but I think he said the right thing.

  3. I think of the photo of the lightning strike at St. Peter’s at retirement of Benedict XVI. What could we expect if Francis were to follow suit.
    Hope he wouldn’t retire while Benedict is still occupying that pew 🙂

  4. Good points. I wish Francis had not talked about an “institution” of pope emeritus; it’s really more of an honorific. Benedict remains especially dear to us, but functionally, he is just a retired bishop at this point.

    The early Japanese “emperors” (I use quotes because the institution never has exactly corresponded to any Western institution) really did govern, but much of their time and energy was consumed by ceremony and ritual. After a few centuries, a “solution” was found — once an emperor had an adult son, he would retire and leave the ceremonies to him, while the retired emperor made the important state decisions. This was the beginning of a process in which the emperor lost almost all of his power, though some of it was briefly regained between the Meiji Restoration and the end of WWII.

    The same thing could not happen with popes in reality, but it could in appearance, with the practical upshot being that the pope emeritus would either become a puppet master (like the kings of France during the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy) or a de facto antipope. Let’s not go there!

  5. I agree with you Howard: “I wish Francis had not talked about an “institution” of pope emeritus…”

  6. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. (Gal 1:8)

    LORD, Please send the Great King and the Great Pope soon! Also, the Illumination of conscience for the World.


  7. DEGRADATION (The Church taken for granted as an INSTITUTION and run on that line)……DECAY……..and DEATH……but it will happen only to the projected reality of The Church.

    And now, O Lord, we have POPE RETIRING!

    It looks like for the Pope Jesus the Lord has run away from his CROSS.

    Jesus Lord, You NEVER abandoned your cross or run away from it, give us good popes like St. John Paul II who remained nailed to your CROSS till his very last moment of his life on earth.

    Since Pope Francis has not yet started to act like Peter in the ACTS – that is acting like a true Apostle – he is tempted to welcome thought on ‘retirement’.
    Jesus Lord, save him and us from such great evil.

    Before such a disgraceful and unimaginable evil happening AGAIN grant us the grace of lightening-speed election of succeeding Pope.

    Jesus Lord, once my dear and most loving and caring mother prayed to you that i be no more if I were to even think of LEAVING your service and what a WONDERFUL GRACE she was to me from you Lord my only LOVE!

  8. “Nothing but evil can come about if such retirements become part and parcel of the papacy.”

    So very true. Jesus Lord, have mercy on us and save us from such Popes in future.

    Those who go down the slopes with childish abandon what understanding have they of JESUS CRUCIFIED THE WISDOM OF THE LIVING GOD? Perhaps such people are thinking only of saving the bit of their miserable life that is left but can such lives be saved? Has not the Lord said, “Those who lose their life on account me and on account of the Gospel will keep it for eternal life?

    Here it looks even people having PASTORAL quality are acting like those who actually worship only the god of Philosophers. Could be that such qualities are exercised as mere human techniques to win popularity and approval from below disregarding the approval that comes from above.

    If such EVIL example is followed, for Bishops, Priests and Religious too to reduce their call to a temporary phase, the time is not too far away.

    Pope Benedict spoke of EVIL in his Regensberg talk but this EVIL is unimaginably more so for it keeps crucifying the Lord of glory down to our own age.

    Does not Brutus make a difference, and what a difference, my God!

    Jesus Son of God, our Savior, save us such concrete EVIL from within your Church.

  9. Following the decree Christus Dominus of VII, Pope Paul VI set, in effect, a retirement age of 75 for diocesan bishops and parish priests (Ecclesiae Sanctae, 06/08/1966) and excluded Cardinals from the Roman Curia and Papal Conclaves at 80 (Ingravescentem Ætatem, 21/11/1970)

    It would be odd, if “the natural relationship between the increasing burden of age and the ability to perform certain major offices” did not apply to the papacy.

    Part of the problem is the age at which popes now tend to be elected. Innocent III, often considered the greatest of the mediaeval popes was born in 1161, elected pope in 1198 at the age of 37 and died in 1216, aged 55, younger than many of his successors at the time of their election.

    Other young popes include Leo X, who was elected on 9 March, 1513, aged 38. To enable him to accept his election, he was ordained a priest on 15 March, consecrated bishop on 17th and crowned on the 19th He died in 1521 aged 46.

    His fellow Medici pope, Clement VII, was elected in 1523, aged 45 and died in 1534 aged 56. He had been consecrated Archbishop of Florence in 1517, aged 39. Interestingly, in light of his involvement with Henry VIII’s over the king’s abortive annulment, in 1521, he was appointed bishop of Worcester in commendam. Other sees that he held in commendam were the archbishopric of Narbonne in Languedoc and the bishopric of Eger in Hungary

  10. ” It would be odd, if “the natural relationship between the increasing burden of age and the ability to perform certain major offices” did not apply to the papacy. Part of the problem is the age at which popes now tend to be elected. ” –
    Michael Paterson-Seymour,

    It would be odd. A life spent growing toward wisdom is a quality that belongs in major offices, especially in the Church hierarchy where news from God is entrusted to be given to people. With the existence of the natural relationship between age and ability to perform, there is, for the people, a hope that the freedom to focus or emphasize is based on that wisdom. I think it’s good that age is only part of the problem, otherwise is unthinkable. Health of mind and strength of body become a great gift for God’s people and those that would be His people with the help of wisdom emanating from the Fathers.

    There is great food for thought in the ages of life, and as well, responsibility or integrity of major offices. As Donald McClarey writes, “that changes the nature of the office and the role of the pope in the Church.” We can hope that integrity surpasses politics, but, meanwhile use our lifespan to listen to God’s Word for advice.

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