Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Papal Resignation

"Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his Office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, though it is not necessary for it to accepted by anyone.” (Code of Canon Law: Canon 332 par.2)

The above cited official and clear provision of the Code of Canon Law has special relevance these days on account of the recent development at the Vatican that received world-wide attention – plus worries and concerns on the part of the Catholic world. Many questions were asked. Some answers were given. Many worries were expressed. Certain assurances were made. For the record as some kind of a little information, it would be in order to know and understand the above cited legislation of, in and for the Church concretely on the matter of nothing less than the resignation of the Roman Pontiff himself, i.e., the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, the Holy Father, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome in addition to being the Head of State of the Vatican City State, Europe.

The more significant indirect and direct contents of the above Church legislation are the following: One, that it is usually nothing less than death that puts an end to a given papal tenure. Two, that Church law however has a specific provision in the event of the resignation by a ruling Pope. Three, that for its validity, the resignation should be freely or voluntarily done by the incumbent Pope himself. Four, that in order to be effective, the said resignation should be duly made public or known to those concerned. Five, that the same resignation need not be accepted by anyone, nor could it be rejected by someone whereas there is no authority in the Church higher than the Pope himself.

After the thus canonically qualified and wherefore effective resignation of a Pope, what happens meantime until there is a new Pope to assume the Office of the Papacy? The Code of Canon Law also provides the answer: “When the Roman See is vacant, no innovation is to be made in the governance of the universal Church.” (Canon 223).

The above canonical provision in turn simply means that while changes in the governance or administration of local Churches such as Archdiocese, Dioceses and their ecclesiastical equivalents during the vacancy of the Papal see – “sede vacante” – may be validly and licitly done by their respective Archbishops and Bishops, the governance or management of the universal Church herself remains the same until a new Pope comes to Office. It is the new succeeding incumbent Pope that then assumes the governing authority over the Church in the whole world.

Question: How does a new Pope become a living reality?