There are those who say that Benedict XVI is still really Pope. There are different reasons given. One is that his abdication was under duress and is, therefore, void. Another is that he himself did not intend to resign: why else would he remain in Vatican City, retain the papal name Benedict XVI and dress in the classic white cassock with white zucchetto, but not the simarra which, with its pellegrina or cape, is a symbol of jurisdiction? Some wonder if there isn’t a way in which Benedict remains Pope but with a solely contemplative role, while Francis is pope with an active role which includes potestas, such that the munus Petrinum is now shared.
Here is another bit of information to toss into the speculation ring.
I received an email from a reader…
Can Benedict XVI impart an apostolic blessing if he has ceased to be the Pope?
In the Bild article leaking excerpts of Benedict XVI’s letters to Brandmuller, he ends one with:
Beten wir lieber darum, wie Sie es am Ende Ihres Briefes getan haben, daß der Herr seiner Kirche zu Hilfe kommt. Mit meinem apostolischen Segen bin ich
Let us pray, as you did at the end of your letter, that the Lord will come to the help of His Church. I am with my apostolic blessing
It may be that His Holiness B16 dashed that off as a matter of habit. Heck, I know an older priest or two who still mention John Paul in the Eucharistic Prayer.
It may be that His Holiness is using the term somewhat loosely.
That said, the Apostolic Benediction is given by the Pope. They do so solemnly on occasions such as the Urbi et Orbi blessing. It is done at audiences (except when Francis chooses not to bless at all). They do so also in writing for some occasions.
A few others in limited circumstances impart the Apostolic Blessing. A priest can give it with an indulgence when someone is dying. Bishops could give the blessing three times a year on solemn feasts.
However, in general Popes give this blessing and Popes customarily end special letters with an expression that they impart the Apostolic Blessing.
It is possible that Benedict XVI was using terms loosely, and really meant his pontifical blessing, his episcopal blessing as a bishop.
Finally, I suspect that Benedict, who by all reports is still as sharp as a scalpel, knows very well what he can and cannot do, none better.