Vatican denies rumors that Benedict XVI has degenerative nerve disorder


Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After rumors spread in German media that Benedict XVI has a paralyzing nerve disease, the Vatican debunked the story, saying the retired Pope is experiencing nothing more than the normal aches and pains of aging.

“The recent news of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false,” the Vatican said Feb. 15.

The statement was in response to a story published in German tabloid Neue Post Feb. 14, which quoted Benedict’s older brother Georg Ratzinger as saying that the Pope Emeritus had a degenerative nerve disease which left him increasingly in need of a wheelchair.

Benedict XVI recently sent a letter to Italian daily Corriere della Sera saying he is in the last phase of his life, and that while his physical strength might be waning, he is surrounded by love and consolation.

“I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home,” he said in the letter, published Feb. 7 on the front page of Corriere della Sera.

He said that “it's a great grace for me to be to be surrounded in this last piece of the road, which is at times a bit tiring, by a love and goodness that I could never have imagined.”

Benedict addressed the letter to Italian journalist Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, who was charged with the task of presenting the retired pontiff with letters expressing concern and asking about his well-being five years after resigning from the papacy.

Despite the recent report on Benedict's health in Neue Post, the Vatican in their statement said that “in two months Benedict will turn 91 years old and, as he himself recently said, he feels the weight of these years, as is normal at this age.”

 


Commentary: The Vatican gap between theory and practice


Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Yesterday Pope Francis issued a new letter motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, or “Learning to take your leave.”

Pope Francis made only some minor adjustments to canon law concerning the retirement of bishops, specifically those serving as papal representatives in diplomatic posts and in Curial offices.

Legally speaking, not much changed. Imparare is a tidying up exercise. All bishops are now asked to submit their resignations at the age of 75, which become effective when they are formally accepted by the pope. Previously, those in certain positions saw their positions lapse de iure upon their reaching a certain age.

While the document is ostensibly about retirement, and going gracefully, in fact it clears the way for Vatican officials to carry on in their posts past the age of 75.

In itself, there is nothing novel about bishops in important or sensitive roles carrying on past the age of retirement. It is common practice that diocesan bishops in major sees have their resignations accepted nunc pro tunc, or “now for later,” effectively keeping them in post indefinitely. Similarly, few Curial cardinals are expected to depart from service promptly on their 75th birthdays. Harmonizing the law, so that it effectively applies to everyone in the same way, is not exactly revolutionary.

What is odd about the motu proprio is that, for a document supposedly about retiring with grace, it spends rather more time talking about those who are staying on. Indeed, under Pope Francis, this exception is becoming the norm.

Despite the Pope’s stated preference for single five-year terms in the Curia, an ever-growing number of key Vatican officials are carrying on well past their terms. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has served 11 years in that office, and turns 80 next month. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, is 77, and Cardinal Ravasi at the Pontifical Council for Culture turned 77 last year.

The progressive Archbishop Piero Marini has been head of the International Eucharistic Congresses for 10 years and turned 76 a few weeks ago. Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, the erratic Dean of the Roman Rota, is nearly 77. Those who are expected to retire with grace at the end of their terms, like Cardinal Müller, are so exceptional as to be newsworthy.

Given that this is the opposite of what the Pope has called for, the situation is something of a mystery. Imparare a congedarsi is clear that carrying on past an age limit is supposed to be “exceptional.” The Pope wrote that anyone being kept on is not being done a “favor” or being thanked for services rendered. Instead, such individuals are being asked to see important projects to their finish, or bridge a difficult period of transition. In theory, this makes excellent sense, and is the reason many officials of different ranks have previously been kept on past 75.

Yet it’s hard to see this rationale at work in all cases. Msgr. Pinto, for example, has been the subject of considerable criticism for his public outbursts against the four so-called “dubia cardinals” (technically his superiors), and his recent attempts to abolish the right of appellants before the court of the Roman Rota to chose their own lawyer (he wanted to assign lawyers personally from his own list of preferred advocates) ended in a humiliating climb-down after it was pointed out he was violating basic legal freedoms and endangering the Holy See’s concordat with the Italian Republic. Pinto has even had a “pro-dean” installed under him, essentially a successor in waiting, yet he remains in office now in his sixth year.

As with several of the Franciscan reforms of the Curia, the distance between theory and practice is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, or explain. Despite the clear and praiseworthy possibilities offered in yesterday’s motu proprio, there seems little “exceptional” about some of those being kept in office long past retirement age.

Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.


Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops


Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and Curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.

The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published Feb. 15.

Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.  

In the motu proprio, signed Feb. 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.
 
He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”
 
“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.

The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a Curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.

The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.

Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.
 
Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.

As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.

On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.

He also emphasized that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favor between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.
 
“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”

The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.