Say that a Pope becomes bedridden and so he cannot go out in public and does not have the stamina to perform other duties. Or he begins suffering from Alzheimer's and thus cannot remember that he is the Pope. At that point, the Pope is unable to continue his duties due to physical or mental illness.

Assuming that the Pope does not voluntarily resign due to his health (as Pope Benedict XVI did in 2013), would the Pope be removed from office and a new election be called? Or would he still nominally hold the role while others perform the duties of his office?

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    I don't know about physical ailments, but permanent loss of reason (as in advanced Alzheimer's disease) results in loss of one's office. (This applies not only to the papacy but also to other offices in the Church.) Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 17:45
  • @curiousdannii I tried voting to close it, but for some questions I can immediately close them. Do you know why?
    – Geremia
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 23:26
  • 3
    @Geremia You have a gold tag for Catholicism, so you can immediately close any question with that tag as a duplicate, just like a mod (but not other close reasons). Pretty cool perk! Just have to remember that it can happen.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 18, 2018 at 23:29
  • @curiousdannii Cannot see the duplicate. Can you link it please?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 17:29
  • @luchonacho It's available in the revision history for the question: Could the Pope be removed from office for lapses in judgment? Commented Sep 19, 2018 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


An "incapacitated", at the very least, pope, cannot be unwillingly removed from office. I'm not sure about a verbal, bedridden Pope, however, the article What happens to papal power when a pope is unconscious? Nothing tells us that an unconscious Pope cannot be removed.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to include the essential parts of the answer here, and provide the link for reference.
    – agarza
    Commented Mar 29 at 2:58

What happens if a Pope is unable to continue his duties due to physical or mental illness?

That will depend on the circumstances in which a particular pope finds himself.

Being bedridden would not be considered a problem in itself, since a pope could theoretically make decisions from his bed. This naturally would presume that the Sovereign Pontiff had the proper medical and council support of doctors and cardinals.

Pope Clement VII was almost completely blind for the better part of his final years when he was pope from 1478-1534. A pope can still be at the helm of the Church as long as he has his intellectual abilities and they are not overly comprised.

But what really happens when the Papal Throne is impeded through some unforeseen event.

Canon 335: When the Roman See is vacant or entirely impeded, nothing is to be altered in the governance of the universal Church; the special laws issued for these circumstances, however, are to be observed.

It is obvious that the Church has some sort of protocols set in place, in the event the pope is impeded somehow of fulfilling his duties, even if these protocols are not shared publicly, they are nevertheless in place. My guess is that the Church hopes that such situations will not happen! The Church takes nothing for granted.

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