“There is no place in the Church for a Pope Emeritus.”

ASCA has a story (in Italian) stating that the postulator of the cause of Pope John Paul II, Msgr. Slawomir Oder, says that in 1989, confirmed in 1994, the Pope had already signed a resignation letter in case he became incapacitated.

Apparently, the late Pope reflected deeply on the matter and did a close study of canon law as well as the theological implications with Joseph Card. Ratzinger.

In 1994, when the Pope was about to undergo surgery for his broken leg, he said to the surgeon Gianfranco Fineschi: "Doctor, both you and I have only one option.  You have to cure me.  I have to heal.  Because there is no place in the Church for a Pope Emeritus."

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  1. Choirmaster says:

    So, does that mean the conclusion of John Paul II and Ratzinger’s inquiry was that a Pope cannot resign?

  2. Tominellay says:

    …probably means the opposite…

  3. Seems to me that Pope John Paul II was unwilling to leave the Church in a position of a Pope being incapacitated, when there is no provision for removing a Pope. Therefore he made arrangements to make sure the Church was not put into that position.

    Certainly there has been precedent for popes resigning (I believe St. Celestine V was one).

  4. PatrickJude says:

    I am not a Canonist or claim to understand the legalistic matter of this, but to my understanding of the term ’emeritus’ it would mean someone who has retired from a said position rather than resign.

    Therefore in this instance, it would have been, that should Pope John Paul II were to resign, he would not be addressed as Pope Emeritus John Paul II but rather, he would divert to his former title and addressed as while he remained alive as “Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, Former Pope of the Roman Catholic Church” as indeed there is no provision for an Pope Emeritus and most likely never will

  5. Oneros says:

    He meant that, at least at this time, and given his own big personality…he either had to die in surgery or continue as Pope, the surgeon either had to succeed totally or fail totally…because his continued existence merely as “Pope Emeritus” (I believe, actually, it would be better just to call such a man “Bishop Emeritus of Rome”) would undermine the authority of his successor and overshadow his successor (ie, people would keep going to the old Pope for questions, trying to “go behind the back” of the new guy, etc)

  6. Justin from Ohio says:

    That was exactly my reading of it, Oneros.

  7. Choirmaster says:

    I like “Bishop Emeritus of Rome” as a title for a retired or resigned Pope. It conveys the reality of the situation without having more than one guy called “Pope”.

    I don’t see how it could be possible to “go back” to being a cardinal (or whatever rank/dignity preceded Pope).

  8. During World War II, Ven. Pius XII told the cardinals that if he were ever captured, they were to consider that from that moment, he had abdicated, and to gather themselves together as best they could and choose a new Pope. It was unthinkable to him that the Church should be without a head at such a dire moment. If the Germans ever took him, he said (and I’m paraphrasing), it would be Eugenio Pacelli they captured and not Pope Pius.

  9. A pope can resign. See Canon 332.2.

  10. raitchi2 says:

    Pope Benedict IX was pope 3 times. He resigned twice.

  11. MenTaLguY says:

    Pius XII’s decision was probably informed in part by the experience of his predecessor Pius VII, who was captured by Napoleon’s troops and held in captivity for six years.

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