I've heard that after popes die (at least after Bl. John Paul II died) all their unpublished works and letters are burnt and I heard on the radio this morning that Pope Benedict XVI is pretty much going in to hiding, not just as a former head of state, but also to not influence in any way the new Pope.

So, we were expecting an encyclical on Faith for the year of Faith 2013, and if it doesn't get published in the next two and a half weeks will it be destroyed or can it (if it even exists) be published "posthumously"?

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    I can't answer the main question. But, the subquestion about the encyclical is briefly address by Jimmy Akin, "His successor could release it anyway, with any suitable modifications he deemed appropriate. Or it could not come out at all." (It's the 2nd to last bullet on the list.)
    – svidgen
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:28
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    yeah, I just read that a few minutes ago (I put a comment for him to come here and answer this question)
    – Peter Turner
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:29
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    That's actually a touch funny, now that I think of it. I saw a few comment notifications pop up while I was reading it. Naturally, I ignored them ...
    – svidgen
    Feb 11, 2013 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


The ex-pope can't publish anything as a pope - his seal is destroyed and he has no longer the right to use his papal name in this way. Documents he didn't manage to publish won't be destroyed, but are open to use by his successor, as the site linked in Svidgen's comment states.

No one can forbid the ex-pope to publish books under his civic name, though it's a tradition for an ex-pope to refrain from anything that might have "political" consequences. I personally (with no qualification, I just guess) expect Joseph Ratzinger to publish some of his yet unpublished works (otherwise, someone would publish them posthumously) - I guess he has enough unpublished (or unfinished) materials from his academic times.


Pope Benedict XVI may have resigned as of February 28,2013 but he would be able to publish works with the permission of Pope Francis and providing the works in question would not be a conflict of interest with the pontificate of Pope Francis and his successors. Will he publish anything? Probably not. One thing is absolute: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI can never publish any official documents whatsoever. Pope Francis acknowledged the efforts of his predecessor when he published his first encyclical Lumen Fidei of July 5, 2013. https://zenit.org/articles/official-summary-of-lumen-fidei/

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is not going into solitude to hide as some believe, but is retiring from the world, in order to lead a life of prayer and contemplation.

The writings of a deceased pontiff (retired pontiff) are not to be destroyed unless explicitly mentioned in the last will and testament of the defunct pontiff. You can read about this in chapter V (part I) of Universi Dominici Gregis of Pope John Paul II. http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_22021996_universi-dominici-gregis.html

Personal writings and documents of a deceased pope are to be stored in the Vatican Secret Archives and are not to be open until 75 years after the death of that pope. You can see where the works of Pope John Paul II are stored in his video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urLxLj_UU8w

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