In the Declaratio, Pope Emeritus Benedictus XVI renounced the exercise of the munus, but not the munus itself. So what is the munus and what are the implications of the renunciation of the exercise alone for the current Pope Francis?

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    You will need to link to some information regarding the subject as it is obscure.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 26, 2021 at 7:07
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    @NigelJ This might be related - Fabio, are you referring to the 2013 Declaratio? Aug 26, 2021 at 13:54
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    @KorvinStarmast I was about to respond. I think this is about 1) the distinction between munus (office of papacy) vs. ministerium (ministry of the bishop of Rome) and 2) which one exactly did Pope Benedict resign; 3) the meaning Pope Benedict intended in the Declaratio of his resignation, whether he meant what the Latin should mean esp. since he is a good Latinist, 4) whether the resignation is valid according to canon law, 5) whether there is such a thing as "Pope Emeritus" in contrast to "Bishop Emeritus" which exists (when a bishop retire). Aug 26, 2021 at 14:01
  • @GratefulDisciple That was my guess, (your point 3) but I'd like Fabio to confirm. 😊 The resignation is a fait accompli and had IIRC a single historical precedent. I'd like to edit the title to something like "What is the implication of munus in the 2013 Declaratio of Pope Benedict" but I don't want to be guessing. Aug 26, 2021 at 14:03
  • @KorvinStarmast Sure, we need Fabio to confirm. I found 2 articles representing the debate for #4, along with technical interpretation of the declaratio, canon law, and other supporting evidence: the yes side and the no side. Quite educational. Just putting the resources here in this thread for someone to write an answer (not me). Aug 26, 2021 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


What is the implication of “munus”?

Before going on I wish to put forth the actual Latin text of Pope Benedict’s Resignation as well as an English translation.

Below is the full text of Pope Emeritus Benedict’s speech in Latin and English:

Fratres carissimi,

Non solum propter tres canonizationes ad hoc Consistorium vos convocavi, sed etiam ut vobis decisionem magni momenti pro Ecclesiae vitae communicem. Conscientia mea iterum atque iterum coram Deo explorata ad cognitionem certam perveni vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse ad munus Petrinum aeque administrandum. Bene conscius sum hoc munus secundum suam essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo et loquendo exsequi debere, sed non minus patiendo et orando. Attamen in mundo nostri temporis rapidis mutationibus subiecto et quaestionibus magni ponderis pro vita fidei perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae necessarius est, qui ultimis mensibus in me modo tali minuitur, ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum bene administrandum agnoscere debeam. Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 29, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.

Fratres carissimi, ex toto corde gratias ago vobis pro omni amore et labore, quo mecum pondus ministerii mei portastis et veniam peto pro omnibus defectibus meis. Nunc autem Sanctam Dei Ecclesiam curae Summi eius Pastoris, Domini nostri Iesu Christi confidimus sanctamque eius Matrem Mariam imploramus, ut patribus Cardinalibus in eligendo novo Summo Pontifice materna sua bonitate assistat. Quod ad me attinet etiam in futuro vita orationi dedicata Sanctae Ecclesiae Dei toto ex corde servire velim.

Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die 10 mensis februarii MMXIII

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.

However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

Benedictus PP XVI

Only a very small minority of Catholics have criticised Benedict's resignation, saying he did not fully resign the Papacy. One would argue that he resigned the ministerium of the papacy yet maintained the munus.

It seems quite clear at least to me that the terms munus and ministerium are synonyms. Having taken Latin for many years myself, it seems like a no-brainer.

Was Pope Benedict’s Resignation Valid?

Canon law lays out what it looks like for a pope to resign (Can. 332, §2):

§2 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, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.

That’s pretty straightforward. In other words, a pope may resign, and doesn’t need to tender his resignation to any higher earthly authority, but the resignation must be free (there were fears during WWII about what to do if Hitler kidnapped Pope Pius XII, and this canon is basically saying that you can’t force the pope to resign under duress). So what did Pope Benedict do? He freely vacated the See:

For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Lest there be any ambiguity on the fact that Benedict was declaring himself no longer pope, he said to the Cardinals who assembled to select his successor:

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants. And among you, in the College of Cardinals, there is also the future pope to whom today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.

You don’t have to be a theologian to understand what’s happened here. Benedict was pope, and then he resigned, just as canon law said that he could. And what’s more, even if canon law hadn’t said anything, he would still be free to resign. Popes prior to him (most recently, Pope St. Celestine V) have resigned, prior to the creation of modern-day canon law. Canon law is simply recognizing the reality that popes can resign. In fact, canon 331 is clear that “by virtue of his office, he [the pope] has supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church, and he can always freely exercise this power.” In other words, the pope doesn’t need canon law’s permission.

So Why Do People Deny That Benedict Resigned?

One of the most obsessive writers on this topic is one Br. Alexis Bugnolo, and his argument is (to put it nicely) a convoluted mess. Basically, canon law talks about resigning the office (munus) of the papacy, and Benedict spoke of leaving the “ministry” (ministerium) of the Bishop of Rome. Bugnolo has written thousands of words about the alleged differences between ministerium and munus, even though Latin dictionaries will tell you that the two words are synonyms.

But even assuming that the two words mean (slightly) different things, what’s the theory here? The only way that Benedict could cease to exercise the ministry of the Bishop of Rome is to cease to be the pope. Moreover, he explicitly announced that he was vacating the See, and that there would be a new pope to whom he pledged his loyalty. There’s no wiggling out of his words there, as if he was somehow unclear.

Resignation isn’t a magical spell that you have to word just right. If you tell your boss, “I’m ending my employment here, effective immediately,” he doesn’t expect you back on Monday because you said “employment” and not “occupation.” And the pope is free to resign however he wants, as long as he’s not doing so under duress or in some way prohibited by divine or natural law.

So that’s the technical argument, and as I said, it’s not much. Reading the advocates’ arguments, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of canon legalese and Latin vocab, but the simple argument they’re making is theologically bankrupt. Canon law doesn’t restrict the pope’s free authority to resign, and no reasonable person can deny that Benedict exercised this authority quite publicly in 2013.

Only a small minority feel that the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI was invalid and is in reality still pope.

Another question comes to light here: What does it mean when Archbishop Ganswein stated that Pope Benedict XVI expanded the Petrine Ministry?

The Church traditionally used the examples of Martha and Mary to distinguish the ways of perfection in the interior life of prayer.

In her later work, The Interior Castle, Teresa describes the journey towards God as moving through seven rooms, or mansions, of a castle, with the seventh room, the centre of the castle, representing the centre of the soul where God resides. Professor McGinn: “God lives and glows within the centre of the soul, because this is the part of the soul which has been created in the image and likeness of God.

“This is the highest level of union where a spiritual marriage takes place between God and the soul. One of the effects of this is the perfect uniting of Mary and Martha. Teresa writes: ‘Believe me, Martha and Mary must join together in order to show hospitality to the Lord and have him always present and not host him badly by failing to give him something to eat. How would Mary, always seated at his feet, provide him with food if her sister did not help her?’

“What is fundamental to recognize is that for Teresa action and contemplation are not opposed modes of life, but are interdependent and united….” - The power of uniting Mary and Martha

In fact, Archbishop Gänswein clearly states this in the article: Archbishop Gänswein: Benedict XVI Sees Resignation as Expanding Petrine Ministry

Speaking at the presentation of a new book on Benedict’s pontificate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome May 20, Archbishop Gänswein also said that Pope Francis and Benedict are not two popes “in competition” with one another, but represent one “expanded” Petrine Office with “an active member” and a “contemplative.”

Thus Pope Emeritus Benedict has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from him. His life is now one of contemplation.

For the record, there is only one active Sovereign Pontiff on the Chair of St. Peter.

“That is what I have said, indeed, that – if one wishes to specify it – it is very clear, the Plena Potestas, the Plenitudo Potestatis [full power, incarnate authority] is in the hands of Pope Francis. He is the man who has right now the succession of Peter. And then there are no difficulties left, as I also have said it. These two are also not in a competitive relationship. That is where one has to make use of common sense, as well as the Faith and a little bit of theology. Then one does not have at all difficulties to understand properly [sic] what I have said.“ - Archbishop Gänswein

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Lightning bolt hit Vatican not once but TWICE hours after Pope's shocking resignation

Is it simple coincidence that Cardinal Bergoglio chose the name Francis?

While reading the Prophecy of the Popes, I noticed that the entry for the 111 Pope in the series reads: Glory of the olive (Gloria oliviae).

Wikipedia's article on this subject states:

Proponents of the prophecies generally try to draw a connection between Benedict and the Olivetan order to explain this motto: Benedict's choice of papal name is after Saint Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine Order, of which the Olivetans are one branch. Other explanations make reference to him as being a pope dedicated to peace and reconciliations of which the olive branch is the symbol.

The olive is considered the symbol of peace.

The use of a dove and olive branch as a symbol of peace originated with the early Christians, who portrayed the act of baptism accompanied by a dove holding an olive branch in its beak and also used the image on their sepulchres. The dove appears in many funerary inscriptions in the Roman catacombs, sometimes accompanied by the words in pace (Latin for "in peace"). - Peace symbols (Wikipedia)

When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope, he took the papal name of Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.

Furthermore St. Francis of Assisi is also one of the patron saints of peace.

We are living in interesting times to say the least.


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