Pope writing a letter

Pope writing a letter

Did the Pope Submit a Renunciation? Text in English of Paul VI’s Renunciation

The renunciation to which the Pope alludes was submitted at the beginning of his Pontificate, that is, shortly after he was elected. However, it is a renunciation (the technical word is resignation) for a specific cause: impediment. Paul VI also wrote one, and we present it here, for the first time, in English.

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 21.12.2022).- As a result of an interview published in Spain’s ABC newspaper last December 18, a good part of the press pointed out an affirmation of Pope Francis regarding a renunciation he has already signed. 

Given that many people just stay with the headlines, and the headlines were mistakenly pointing out, in fact, the aspect of the renunciation submitted, with no further context, not a few have remained disoriented. 

The question posed to Pope Francis was: “What happens if a Pope is suddenly impeded due to health problems or an accident? Wouldn’t a standard be appropriate for such cases?” To which the Holy Father replied: 

“I have already signed my renunciation. At the time, Tarcisio Bertone was the Secretary of State. I signed it and said to him: “In case of impediment for medical reasons  or whatever, here is my renunciation. They already have it.” I don’t know to whom Cardinal Bertone gave it, but I gave it to him when he was Secretary of State.”

The renunciation to which the Pope is referring is one submitted at the beginning of his Pontificate, that is, shortly after having been elected. But it’s a renunciation (the technical word is resignation) for a specific cause: impediment. 

In fact, he is not the first Pope to carry out a gesture of this sort. Thanks to the work of Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza, current Regent of the Papal Household, Pope Paul VI wrote a similar latter to that of Francis. 

The tenor of Paul VI’s health was akin to that of Francis, namely, essentially good. Monsignor Sapienza says so in the book “Paul’s Boat”:

“On May 2, 1965, when he sat in front of his desk and picked up the pen, Paul VI enjoyed good health and Vatican Council II was still in full swing: it was Paul VI himself who was to close it the following December 8 (. . . ) hence, [Pope] Montini did not take this decision under the pressure of difficulties, fears, misunderstandings, but was moved  only by love of the Church, which a Pastor must have in the fulness of his faculties (. . . ) Sixty-eight years, criticisms of the reforms introduced stemming from the Conciliar Documents, misunderstandings of Humanae Vitae, vocational crisis: everything happened afterwards.”

In so far as is known, Saint John Paul II did know the text of Paul VI’s renunciation but not Benedict XVI. Hence, it’s not something original to Pope Francis but rather to something inspired possibly by two events: Benedict XVI’s historic renunciation and Paul VI’s writing, which we reproduce below translated into English. 

We, Paul VI, by Divine Providence Bishop of Rome and Pontiff of the universal Church:

In the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, — invoking the name of Jesus Christ, our Master, our Lord, our Saviour, to whom we owe all the love and service possible to us and of whose supreme power we are unworthily but genuinely clothed — Trusting in the benevolent assistance of Mary Most Holy, of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Joseph, of Saint Peter the Apostle, whose keys have been entrusted to us, and of Saint Paul the Apostle, whose name we wish to take as example and protection, of all the Saints and Angels, conscious of our responsibility before God, and full of reverence and charity in our hearts, not ignorant of our evangelical mission, declare before the world: 

In case of illness, which is deemed incurable or of long duration, and which hinders us from exercising sufficiently the functions of our apostolic ministry; or in the case that another grave and prolonged impediment for it is equally an obstacle, declare that we renounce our sacred and canonical office, both as Bishop of Rome as well as Head of the Holy Catholic Church herself. 

Paulus P. VI

Given in Rome next to Saint Peter’s, on Sunday of the Good Shepherd, second after Easter, May 2, 1965, second of our Pontificate. 

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter: https://twitter.com/web_pastor, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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