Motu Proprio: Resignation from Pastoral Offices at 75 Years of Age

Apostolic Letter ‘Learn to Take Leave’

Pope Francis signing the Visitors Record Book of the Sanctuary of the Virgen del Quinche


Pope Francis promulgated the Apostolic Letter “Imparare a Congedarsi” [“Learn to Take Leave”], in the form of a Motu Proprio, which regulates the resignation from some papal appointed offices at 75 years of age.

The Apostolic Letter was published by the Holy See Press Office on Thursday, February 15, 2018, despite being dated February 12.

The document specifies that the office doesn’t cease ipso facto at 75, but only after the decision of the Pontiff, to whom the resignation must be tendered. Therefore, it’s a decision that can be prolonged beyond the three months established in Article 3 of Canon 189 of the Code of Canon Law.

In the Letter, the Holy Father stresses the importance of preparing oneself adequately to leave one’s office, “divesting oneself of desires for power and the pretension of being indispensable.” This will enable one to face that moment with peace and confidence, instead of being a painful moment of conflict.

New Plan of Life

One who assumes in truth this need to resign, must discern in prayer how to live the stage that’s about to begin, elaborating a new plan of life marked, in so far as possible, by austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, time dedicated to reading and availability to carry out simple pastoral services,” writes the Pope.

On the other hand, when exceptionally one is requested to continue in the service for a longer period, it must be considered in the ambit of the ecclesial common good” and must not be considered a “privilege or personal triumph,” or a favour due to presumed obligations stemming from friendship or closeness, not even as gratitude for the efficacy of the services rendered, explains Pope Francis.

Reasons to Continue in An Office

Among the reasons to continue in an office, the Holy Father points out the importance of completing properly a project that is advantageous to the Church; the suitability of ensuring the continuity of important works; a Dicastery’s period of transition; the importance of a person’s contribution to the implementation of directives issued by the Holy See or when receiving new magisterial guidelines.

Thus, the Bishop of Rome specifies that this papal decision “isn’t an automatic act, but of government. Consequently, it implies the virtue of prudence, which will help, through appropriate discernment, to make the right decision.”

With this Motu Proprio, the Pope intends to integrate canonical legislation and predispose to some modifications” of the Rescriptum ex Audentia of November 3, 2014, which I confirm integrally, with the exception of some parts contained in Article 2 and modify the canonical norms referring to resignation for reasons of age,” writes the Holy Father.

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