Bishop resignation at 75

I know that canon law calls for a bishop to offer his resignation at 75 to the Holy See. (Can. 401 §1). What happens while the Holy See considers the resignation? The bishop continues his duties? Or is the see considered vacant? How long does it usually take for the Holy See to select a new bishop?

I’m sure there are a multitude of possibilities but I’m just wondering if there is a typical timeframe.


Until the resignation is accepted, the bishop continues in his role. Sometimes bishops continue for some time past the age of 75.

The currently vacant sees have been without bishops from one month to 18 months (see That page also lists the sees with bishops over 75 ranging from Dale Melczek who turned 75 last month to Francis George who turned 75 in January 2012.

It all depends.

Sometimes a bishop’s retirement (or resignation) is not accepted by Rome, so he automatically gets another year (unless he insists on leaving for personal reasons). That can go on for a while, as was the case, for example, with Cardinal O’Connor in New York, who ultimately passed away in office at age 80.

Other times, a bishop’s retirement (or resignation) will be accepted “nunc pro tunc” (“now for then”) meaning that he stays until a successor is named and then remains as administrator until his successor in installed.

In some cases, a co-adjutor would have already been named, meaning that the co-adjutor automatically assumes the See upon the retirement (or resignation) of the local bishop. This was what happened in Los Angeles in 2010 when Abp Velasco was named co-adjutor to succeed Mahoney.

In other cases, a bishop’s retirement (or resignation) is accepted immediately by Rome. In such a situation, the See is vacant, and an administrator is named to run the day-to-day operation until a successor is actually named.

Perhaps I’m missing one or two scenarios, but the point is that there’s no hard-and-fast rule.

This pretty much sums it up!!! :thumbsup:

Here in my diocese, our Bishop of 33+ years turned 75 in July 2012. His resignation was accepted in September 2013 and an Apostolic Administrator was named (the Bishop of a neighboring diocese). Our new Ordinary was just named about a month ago and will be consecrated on January 3, 2014.

I’ve been following episcopal appointments for a few years now and it’s not completely consistent. Some resignations are accepted pretty swiftly after a 75th birthday. Others take longer. Generally, the resignations of Cardinals take a bit longer before they are accepted.

The most common period of vacancy I have observed is 14 months. That’s the number that seems to keep popping up when I look at it. But, of course, there is no hard and fast time table. They are looking for the best man to fill a given spot. They aren’t going to rush it just to follow a schedule.

As others have said, the bishop remains in office until the Vatican accepts his resignation. Indeed, since he was 76 during the conclave I assume Pope Francis was in just this situation, waiting for his resignation to go through and continuing as Archbishop in the meanwhile, when he was elected Pope. Unless there is an exception for members of the Curia I suppose Pope Benedict had been in the same situation before his own election, and for an even longer period of time.

Yes, he had been. He was still functioning as head of the CDF because Joh Paul II hadn’t accepted his resignation yet. :slight_smile: The age of resignation applies to all bishops, even those in the Curia.

Thanks for the link! It’s good stuff.


Does that mean the pope can be older than 75 and doesn’t have to resign like bishops?

Correct. There is no mandate for the pope to resign at a certain age. Even if there were, a pope could simply make an exception to the rule. :slight_smile: Until Pope Benedict changed the trend, it had been quite some time since a pope had resigned.

The other age limit that exists is 80 for voting cardinals. Those who are over 80 by a certain cutoff date are not eligible to vote in a conclave for election of a Pope. However, even non-voting cardinals (and even non-voting non-cardinals of any age) are eligible to receive votes and even to be elected.

If an apostolic administrator was appointed, are they
usually neighboring bishops
And would they still conduct ordinations?

Not necessarily but it’s not important for the purpose of this post.

That would depend. If the ordinations were scheduled by the retired bishop, and if the administrator was himself a bishop, yes, it could happen. The administrator, though, even if he is a bishop, could not decide on his own to ordain a candidate for the vacant See. If he did, it would be a case of valid but illicit.

Okay. Makes sense. I am a deacon candidate
And God willing will be ordained Jan 2017. My
Bishop turns 75 in Sept 2015.

When our Bishop Emeritus (Raymundo Pena) turned 75, he submitted his resignation and asked to stay on another year or two. Rome responded by appointing Bishop Daniel Flores (at that time an auxillary bishop of Detroit).

Yea, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. You’ve had him long enough, we’d like him back now…:stuck_out_tongue:

First, if there is a coadjutor, there is no need for an administrator. As a bishop, he can already conduct ordinations. Alternatively, the acceptance letter by the Pope may include the name of an adminstrator. Otherwise, the diocesan administrator following a resignation is elected in the same way as in the event of a death - normally this takes place locally. In older dioceses in Europe, the cathedral chapter would have this role.

In the event of a death of a bishop in office, the college of consultors elects a priest to be an administrator until the Pope appoints a new bishop. Normally one of the Vicars-general or auxiliary bishops in the diocese are elected (see), unless they are too infirm to carry out the role. Such an adminstrator can only conduct ordinations only if he is already a bishop.

By the way, the adminstrator in this scenario differs from the apostolic administrator that you mentioned. An apostolic administrator is someone, usually a bishop, appointed by the Pope (hence apostolic) to administer an area with direct reporting to the Pope. This arises in three situations: (i) special mission areas (eg., Uzbekistan) or areas under communist rule (eg., several dioceses in China) - I think there are about 10-20 of them in the world; (ii) adminstrators of vacant dioceses as discussed in this thread; (iii) administrators of dioceses where the bishop is under 75 but too infirm - sometimes a message to the bishop that the Pope is waiting for his letter of resignation, even if he is not yet 75.

This is a problem that the hierarchy is not inclined to acknowledge. The Congregation for the Clergy knows the age of each bishop, knows the names of priests nominated by their bishops for elevation to the episcopacy and knows that the resignations are coming. Not a mention is made anywhere of advanced planning for the replacement of a retiring prelate. As far as I am concerned this is nothing short of shoddy human resource management.
There is one solution that I can see. That is that a bishop begin a year or two in advance of retirement to insist that the congregation make a timely selection of a replacement. This should be followed by periodic personal visits to the office of the Congregation in Rome. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If the bishop makes a royal pain of himself, his diocese can be assured of a prompt decision.
Apparently no one wants to disturb “eternal Rome.”

Reb Levi

Oh they do. Every year the nuncio provides three names of possible bishop material to Rome for each diocese as a result of his consultations. Where necessary, a coadjutor with succession rights is appointed. So, there is succession planning is performed as required by any good HR practice.

The problem is the bottleneck - the Pope. There are over 5,000 bishops and on average there would be 200(?) reaching 75. If he chooses to review and decide each case, you can see why the delay.

Sorry bro…he’s ours. You can’t have him back. :smiley:

And in all seriousness, he’s a really great bishop. He preaches one mean homily. Thank you for preparing him for us. :smiley:

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