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Rome Reports

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New book on Benedict XVI explores "juridical gap" of the pope's emeritus status

The Code of Canon Law clearly states a pontiff is allowed to resign, but little is said about his new status or responsibilities.

It is a legal loophole that canonists like Rosario Vitale recommend solving so that their role cannot be misinterpreted.

Author, "Benedict XVI. The First Pope Emeritus of History"
"There is still a gap in the law on this topic because, Benedict XVI probably did not have the time to create legislation revolving around it. He could have made a 'motu proprio' or modify Canon 332 paragraph 2. But it's evident that he did not have time or, maybe he let others make this decision."

Rosario Vitale presented "Benedict XVI. The First Pope Emeritus of History" in the Italian Parliament. It describes the resignation of Joseph Ratzinger and other predecessors, like Celestino V, from a historical and legal point of view.

It says that on a legal level, the reference figure for a pope emeritus are bishops emeritus. These, in Canon 402 of the Code of Canon Law, are allowed to remain in the diocese when their term ends, but it is not mandatory.

What is clear is that the pope emeritus has avoided public activity. His appearances or interventions are minimal. Perhaps the most active he's been are the book-interview he did with journalist Peter Seewald and the long article he published in a German newspaper about sexual abuse.