PopeWatch: Two Persons One Pope? Two Popes One Papacy?

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Edward Pentin at National Catholic Register has a report on some fairly confusing remarks by the personal secretary of the Pope Emeritus, Archbishop Gänswein:


But in his speech, Gänswein insisted “it was fitting” for Benedict to resign because he “was aware that the necessary strength for such a very heavy office was lessening. He could do it [resign], because he had long thought through, from a theological point of view, the possibility of a pope emeritus in the future. So he did it.”

Drawing on the Latin words “munus petrinum” — “Petrine ministry” — Gänswein pointed out the word “munus” has many meanings such as “service, duty, guide or gift”. He said that “before and after his resignation” Benedict has viewed his task as “participation in such a ‘Petrine ministry’.

“He left the Papal Throne and yet, with the step he took on 11 February 2013, he has not abandoned this ministry,” Gänswein explained, something “quite impossible after his irrevocable acceptance of the office in April 2005.“

Instead, he said, “he has built a personal office with a collegial and synodal dimension, almost a communal ministry, as if he had wanted to reiterate once again the invitation contained in the motto that the then-Joseph Ratzinger had as Archbishop of Munich and Freising and naturally maintained as Bishop of Rome: “cooperatores veritatis”, which means ‘co-workers of the truth’.”

Archbishop Gänswein pointed out that the motto is not in the singular but in the plural, and taken from the Third Letter of John, in which it is written in verse 8: “We must welcome these people to become co-workers for the truth”.

He therefore stressed that since Francis’ election, there are not “two popes, but de facto an expanded ministry — with an active member and a contemplative member.” He added that this is why Benedict XVI “has not given up his name”, unlike Pope Celestine V who reverted to his name Pietro da Marrone, “nor the white cassock.”

“Therefore he has also not retired to a monastery in isolation but stays within the Vatican — as if he had taken only one step to the side to make room for his successor and a new stage in the history of the papacy.” With that step, he said, he has enriched the papacy with “his prayer and his compassion placed in the Vatican Gardens.”

Archbishop Gänswein repeated that Benedict’s resignation was “quite different” to that of Pope Celestine V.

“So it is not surprising,” he said, “that some have seen it as revolutionary, or otherwise as entirely consistent with the gospel,  while still others see in this way a secularized papacy as never before, and thus more collegial and functional, or even simply more humane and less sacred. And still others are of the opinion that Benedict XVI, with this step, has almost — speaking in theological and historical-critical terms — demythologized the papacy.”

Go here to read the rest.  Sometimes PopeWatch thinks the Vatican would be much improved if it had fewer intellectual clerics and more with the simple common sense of a good parish priest.  And with that PopeWatch will take a Memorial Day hiatus until June 1, 2016.

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  1. I agree Donald. The Archbishop’s verbose analysis is not necessary. Since “Pope” is in essence “Father”, just analyze it from the perspective of what an actual, loving father would have done in regard to his own children. The answer seems rather obvious.

  2. Amen. Archbishop Ganswein needs a pet, a hobby or a blue collar job. I haven’t heard that much wind since Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey coast. The rest of the world knows that Benedict resigned. Ask the girl at Starbucks. “Where’s Benedict?”
    “He resigned,” she’ll say and continue, ” Do you want a latte sententiae as usual?”
    Ask the cop who stops you for speeding. ” Where’s Benedict?”
    “He quit….the butler and news leaks…the lavender mafia…too much for any elderly person…where’s your registration and license?”

  3. I kind of like the idea of a contemplative co-operator in the Petrine Ministry praying for the active operator.

  4. Another angle on this might be that the Archbishop might be part of a group interested in the future canonization of Benedict and this speech is meant to imbue the resignation with nothing but positives. Critics of Francis might argue that the contemplation partner is not producing clarity in the active partner…so the experiment is failing. I suspect feedback like that is not allowed after a speech by an Archbishop at that institution.

  5. Our Pope Emeritus and our Pope considered together provide a picture of our divided Church. They are very different from each other, as are any two Catholics you might meet today- but somehow both are Catholic and together they represent the Church right now… and they are both still leading the Catholics who willingly follow each / both

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