2 Popes

NB This post is before the selection of Bergoglio

“The See of Peter is now vacant and the Church will be without a Pope until the next one is elected. But in his last audience address on February 27, Pope Benedict XVI introduced some ambiguity into the matter, as did his entire decision to resign while retaining his papal garb — the white cassock — his papal name, Benedict XVI, and even the title His Holiness. (In terms of outward appearances, it seems the only changes will be Benedict’s residence and the color of his shoes — no longer red but brown.)

As the Pope remarked during his last public audience, when he became Pope on April 19, 2005 “I was always and forever committed for the Lord. Always — those who assume the Petrine ministry no longer have any privacy. Always and totally [they] belong [] to everyone, the entire Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere.” But, he went on to say:

The “always” is also a “forever” — there is no return to the private[life]. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry does not revoke this fact. I am not returning to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but I am remaining at the foot of the Crucified Lord. I will no longer vest the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer rest, so to speak, in the yard of St. Peter. St. Benedict, whose name I bare as Pope, is a great example of this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

What is one to make of this affirmation? The statement that Benedict’s abdication of the papacy represents merely “forego[ing] the exercise of active ministry” is curious. Will the new title of “Pope Emeritus” have some sort of passive ministry, and will it be, passively, some sort of papal ministry?”


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