Catholic World News

In preface to biography of Benedict XVI, Pope Francis welcomes 'innovation' of 'Pope-emeritus' role

August 29, 2016

A forthcoming biography of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, written by theologian Elio Guerriero, carries a foreward by Pope Francis, in which the Holy Father applauds his predecessor for introducing the concept of a "pope emeritus."

In the preface, which was published by the Italian daily Avvenire, Pope Francis writes that the role of the Pope-emeritus is an "innovation" that "expresses in a particularly evident manner the continuity of the Petrine ministry, without interruption, like the links of a selfsame chain joined together by love."

In the view of Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister of L'Espresso, that preface appeared to support the theory-- put forward by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary to Benedict XVI, who suggested that Benedict continues to serve the Petrine office in a "contemplative" role, when Francis is the "active" Pontiff. These hints at a dual papacy have been sharply criticized in recent weeks, noted Vatican-watcher Sando Magister, by influential prelates including Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, a leading Church historian; and Bishop Giuseppe Sciaccia, a canon lawyer who serves on the Apostolic Signatura. Benedict XVI himself has admitted that he would have preferred to be known simply as "Father Benedict" after his retirement, but acceded under pressure to demands that he take the title of "Pope emeritus."

In an interview with Guerriero, published last week in anticipation of the new biography, the retired Pontiff confirms that the decided to step down because he no longer had the stamina to carry out his responsibilities. 


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