Faculties of the Pope Emeritus


All priests require faculties. As Pope of Rome, HH Benedict could, of course, celebrate the mass and other sacraments anywhere in the world at any time in any rite. Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church are limited to the Roman Rite (typically), but can, I believe, celebrate the mass in any diocese / parish. Metropolitan archbishops can celebrate anywhere in their province. Other bishops require the permission of the local bishop when celebrating the mass or sacraments outside of their own diocese. What is the status of the Pope Emeritus in this regards? He is no longer a cardinal nor an ordinary, but he possesses a unique position as a man who once held the highest position of honor and authority in the Church.


Back when he had just announced that he was stepping down and no one was sure what we would call him once he had, I remember someone somewhere (it may have been on these forums, or it may have been one of the Catholic blogs I sometimes read) claiming that he would actually still be a cardinal since becoming a cardinal is a lifetime thing, and so in principle it was possible he could go back to being called Cardinal Ratzinger, dressing as a cardinal, and so forth. Now obviously this has not happened as far as what we call him and how he dresses, but might the person have been right about him technically remaining a cardinal?


He is still a cardinal, except that he can no longer vote in papal elections. He can do any job as assigned by the current Pope.
I assume he would still be a bishop in the diocese of Rome, as he has been for about 30 years. But as a (arch)bishop he could act only within the duties assigned by the Ordinary of the Diocese of Rome.


He is a resigned Pope as prescribed by Canon Law. I read some codes of the canon regarding his faculties but could not find it. Perhaps I need more time to search for this in particular. After all he is an ordain minister of the sacraments just like all good ordained ministers, but he is Pope Emeritus.


Pope Emeritus would have the privilege of the Cardinals according to Canon Law, as well as these guidelines to follow, being a bishop emeritus.

Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, APOSTOLORUM SUCCESSORES:


I’ve neither seen nor heard anything that HH Pope-Emeritus Benedict has lost his faculties. He seems as sharp and with it as ever. :smiley:


This is very much new ground, but from my understanding, this is how it is (please correct me if I’m mistaken):

He has all his sacramental faculties, and retains his episcopal dignity. That means that he can celebrate all sacraments that any other bishop could. He can also celebrate with pontificals (mitre, crozier, et c.).

He retains his privileges as a cardinal, which is to celebrate anywhere (although Rome can sometimes be an exception to normal cardinals, but since he’s Bishop Emeritus of Rome, he may be exempt).

He does, however, loose many of his Canonical faculties as pope. That is, he can no longer abrogate the law, issue Motu Propri, issue Encyclicals, et c.


He is a retired bishop. Which is odd, considering he was never actually a bishop. According to the official biography on the Vatican website, he was named archbishop of Munich and Freising in March and consecrated in May of 1977. Later made a cardinal and then elected pope, he never carried the title of bishop until he retired from the papacy. The official biography does not list a titular see and I’m curious as to why they neglected to include that information unless he never had a titular see.
As he has retired to a cloistered community, I think it unlikely that he will be performing any episcopal duties. He’ll say mass, hear confessions, perhaps anoint the sick, but probably won’t be doing many baptisms or officiating at many weddings.

Reb Levi


Note that he has not retired to a cloistered community. The place where he now resides is a former monastery. He has not become a monk. He just lives there. :slight_smile:


When he became pope, he also became the Bishop of Rome.


What do you mean, “never actually a bishop”? An archbishop is a bishop. You say he was consecrated in 1977 and he was a bishop from that point on. That is, he was ordained with the fullness of Holy Orders in the episcopal character. Never mind his title. The bishop/archbishop distinction is an administrative one, not ontological.

According to Catholic-Hierarchy.org, his titular sees were Velletri-Segni and then Ostia. His current see is Rome, as he is entitled as an Emeritus Bishop.


An archbishop is not any different from a bishop, barring a title, sometimes a palium, and a few canonical privileges. When he was consecrated, he received an Episcopal Consecration, not an Archiepiscopal Consecration.

Another way of looking at it is the comparison between priests and monsignori. Neither is sacramentally superior as a priest, one just has extra honorifics (and sometimes, extra privileges).


We are seeing many of the same assumptions being made here that we saw back in February and March of this year, most of which were unfounded. People can cite all manner of documents that they wish, but the truth of the matter is that none of the documents refer to the current situation, which is a completely new one for the post-medieval Church. People speculate, but they really know nothing. (I even recall one person on this forum suggesting that B16 would have to be re-appointed a cardinal by his successor.)

The reality is that what has emerged is something that no one was able to foresee. We did not expect that the title* Pope Emeritus* would ever be used by the Church. (When I first heard it, I thought that it was a ridiculous media invention, like Bride-Elect in engagement announcements.) We did not expect that the Pope Emeritus would continue to wear his white cassock and skullcap. And we did not expect to see pictures like the one below.

So we really do not know the particulars of Benedict’s faculties. My guess would be that since he retains his papal title and white cassocks and skullcap, his retains his faculties everywhere in the world. I find it difficult to believe that Pope Francis or any other bishop in the world would deny him that. But I also believe that it is extremely unlikely that he will ever leave the Holy See again, given his age, health and the unique situation of his living in a monastery for the rest of his life. But this is only my own guess, added to all of the rest.


What I really want to know is if any of the cardinal-electors put the name Ratzinger in when they voted at the past Conclave :wink:

For some reason, I can imagine Dolan doing it.



I would highly doubt that. :wink:


As any bishop emeritus, Benedict XVI retains all his episcopal faculties related to the sacraments as a validly ordained minister of the Church. Nevertheless, with his resignation, he lost all the powers related to his office, so he cannot exercise the supreme authority of the Papacy. The munus regendi can only be exercised with the mandate of the Supreme Pontiff and being in communion with the Holy See. Therefore, he CAN confect any sacrament as he can act in persona Christi. He just can’t write Encyclicals, designate Bishops, create Cardinals, etc.

There’s still one issue left unclear. To celebrate the sacraments validly, any minister needs jurisdiction, which is to be obtained from the Ordinary. As Bishop of Rome, the jurisdiction of the Pope is universal. The question is: as a Pope emeritus (regardless of the actual existence of that title), does he retain the universal jurisdiction? I think not, since it comes attached to the office of Pope. Hence, as the Bishop Emeritus of Rome, he would only have jurisdiction over his former diocese as is the case of any retired bishop. Ergo, he can celebrate the mass, hear confessions, etc, within the limits of the diocese of Rome. Although, as he himself has said, he now is hidden from the world. Because of that, I guess he won’t celebrate any ordinations, baptisms, not even hear confessions or anoint the sick or have any kind of public ministry.
But this is only hypothetical. Let’s leave the canonical issues to the experts :wink:

Greetings and God bless!

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