In recent days, there are more and more questions about the possible abdication of Pope Francis, who unexpectedly held a church and prayed in the Basilica of L’Aquila (the same one where Benedict XVI prayed before his abdication). At the same time, voices of criticism about the Pope’s approach to the war in Ukraine have not diminished. We asked Professor Arkadiusz Stempin – Polish and Vatican historian and assistant professor at Fr. Josef Tichner in Krakow. We give his opinion below.
When will Pope Francis abdicate?
Rumors of Pope Francis’ abdication have been circulating since last summer. Then he underwent colon surgery. The rumors faded in the fall but resurfaced in early May. Then, for the first time, the head the church He appeared in public in a wheelchair. Which included a minor knee surgery necessary due to ligamentitis. However, problems arising from anesthesia during colon surgery led the Pope to avoid the new knee surgery. She prefers physical therapy and a wheelchair.
The popes of our time, beginning with John Paul II, facing the burden of duties, cannot save themselves in the declining stage of their pontificate. stressful journeys, v Vatican Endless encounters with Policy, or heads of churches, or public figures, or heads of services, or the serial signing of ordinances, or even episcopal appointments, all require a high level of competence. Advances in medicine extend biological life, but in an ultra-thrift mode. Meanwhile, the head is unstable with health the church You cannot hide behind the walls of the Vatican. As did almost every pope, right up to the end of his life, even Paul VI (1963-1978), incl. The current understanding of papal election “for life” must now be read as an option until the moment of loss of vitality.
In addition, the end of the papacy of John Paul II highlighted the traditional and structural weakness of papal rule, when the Vatican clique behind the Pope’s poorly healthy and virtually incapable figure began a behind-the-scenes power struggle. Cardinal Ratzinger, one of the witnesses to this interval between the throne, watched when Benedict XVI found himself in a similar situation, he decided to avoid repetition and to abdicate beforehand.
In Francis’ case, speculation about his resignation was fueled by the announcement of a visit to the church of L’Aquila, a town devastated by the 2009 earthquake. But in the cathedral there, Francis stopped at the tomb of Celestine V, a hermit pope who resigned from the papal ministry after five months in office (1294) . Pope Benedict XVI went on a pilgrimage there, and four years later, when he resigned, was hailed as a symbolic act preceding the abdication. Francis’ visit last weekend is seen as a simple analogy to his predecessor’s move.
Speculation about the abdication gained momentum when Francis made the unusual decision to hold a village council during the Roman recess on August 27 to appoint new cardinals (21), of whom 16 (less than 80) have an electoral vote at the next meeting. The church in the Vatican, that is, the deliberations of the Pope with the cardinals who came from all over the world to celebrate the conferment of the color purple to these 21 presidents, continues to this day. On the agenda is the reform of the Roman Curia, the Catholic seat of the church. The changes proposed by Francis prevent the formation of corrupt networks of power by limiting the Vatican’s offices of government to two terms. In contrast, the women’s acceptance in the ears of Francis’s conservative opponents is like having a hoof placed by Satan on a church balcony.
Francis’ abdication is considered certain. He already said at the beginning of his pontificate that resignation from the highest office in the Church should be considered natural. In 2015, he added that his pontificate would be short, while describing Benedict’s decision to step down as “courageous”. However, Francis will certainly not step down before the fall of 2023. At that moment, the last stage of the Synod of Bishops to Rome – the aim of the Synod – to introduce greater fellowship into the Church, that is, to increase the power of the local churches at the expense of the Roman headquarters, could be considered as A testament to the Franciscan rule.
The same applies to the case of the retired pope. The regulations that Benedict XVI adopted for himself are not legally binding. Benedict stepped down, assumed the title of Pope Emeritus, retained his traditional white sweater and sash, and lived in the Abbey of Mater Ecclesiae in the Vatican Gardens. Francis has already indicated that he will take the title of retired bishop of Rome, live outside the Vatican, and will not return to Argentina and give up the white papal robes. Legal regulation of the former pope’s status appears to be a necessity. First, to clearly distinguish him from the current pope – it is now very confusing to less educated Catholics. Second, that the retiring head of the church would not be exploited in the hands of the new pope’s opposition. Which, after all, threw obstacles at Francis’ feet during his reign. Although Benedict himself, as a retired pope, did not lay his hands on attempts to exploit him by the Franciscan opposition.
At the same time, Francis changed the lineage at the College of Cardinals. Not conservatives have the advantage, but cardinals with a theological sensibility similar to him. Most come from countries on the fringes of the Church, including Congo, Mongolia, and East Timor. He constantly bypassed the bishops of the diocese, which usually had cardinals – such as Milan or Krakow – on key appointments. After the last council, the number of electing cardinals from Asia and Africa nearly doubled compared to the council that elected Francis. This makes being able to predict successor selection more difficult. However, even nine years after Francis’ election, the conservative cardinals nominated by Benedict XVI and John Paul II would still make up 35 percent of the electorate. Their votes will be decisive in the election of the Franciscan successor, as he must reach the threshold of two-thirds plus one.
Unless new circumstances are presently unknown, Francis will decide to abdicate after the end of the Roman Council in 2023, when he will implement its provisions, including regulating the status of the retiring pope in canon law. Or perhaps, to avoid a precedent with the coexistence of three popes in office and two retirees, Francis would extend his reign until the death of Benedict XVI.
a. Arcadius Stimpin
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