Retirement at 75: Too Low for Some, Too High for Others

Synod Debates When It´s Best for Bishop to Step Down

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2001 ( Should bishops be required to retire at age 75, as dictated by canon law?

The answers vary as the Synod of Bishops debates the matter. Some bishops want to lower the age of retirement, others want to raise it.

Bishops emeritus — or retired bishops — are still members of the episcopal college. Indeed, several are participating in the synod.

Three retired bishops were appointed by the Pope to attend the synod, highlighting the importance of their continued contribution to the Church.

They are Cardinal Jean Honorè of Tours, France, Bishop Joseph Eric D´Arcy of Hobart, Australia, and Bishop David Picão of Santos, Brazil. A fourth, Bishop Vincent Mensah of Benin, arrived in Rome, appointed by his own episcopal conference.

Bishop Picão addressed the synod Friday, requesting that the retirement age be raised.

«We know that at 75 many bishops emeritus still have good health and a lucid mind,» the Brazilian prelate said. «Given that the quality of life continues to improve, to the point that, according to some U.N. studies, in the year 2050 there will be 2.2 million centenarians, the age of retirement should be established, for the time being, at 78.»

Bishop Picão, 77, who left the government of his diocese in July 2000, did not limit his proposal to the age of retirement.

He asked that bishops emeritus be given the right to vote in episcopal conferences, and that their names be mentioned in the Mass, after that of the diocesan bishops who succeed them.

Earlier, by contrast, four other bishops requested that the retirement age be lowered, especially in Third World countries, where the average life span is still relatively low.

Bishop John Lee Hiong Fun-Yit Yaw of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, explained that «it is a generally experienced that people in tropical regions begin to lose vitality, both physically and mentally, by the time they reach 70 years of age. At this age, some bishops feel reluctant to make decisions, or simply delay giving directions on important pastoral matters. I feel we should be merciful and allow bishops to have the option to retire at 70 years.»

Bishop Vincent Logan of Dunkeld, Scotland, added that bishops «should have the option of retiring earlier than 75 years,» for example, after 25 years in the episcopacy.

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