Pope Francis could soon promulgate a new law (in the form of an Apostolic Constitution) to regulate the resignation of the Pope, and especially the status following the resignation of a Pontiff… In short, it is not even excluded, although it would be sensational, that for the new law there has been no Pope Emeritus at all.” —well-informed Italian Vaticanist Maria Antonietta Calabrò, in an article published today in Rome (complete text below)

    Letter #92, 2021, Monday, August 23: Calabrò

    Two very interesting articles today, focusing on the possibility of a coming resignation of Pope Francis, and a conclave to elect a new Pope.

    But the most interesting thing is a rumor that Pope Francis may soon issue a document on “emeritus Popes,” regulating the role of “retired” or “resigned” Popes.

    And the most interesting fact — all still rumor — is that the document may actually eliminate the role of “Emeritus Pope.”

    This, of course, would be a dramatic way of dealing with the ambiguity, the confusion, but also the undeniable reality of the role played since his resignation in 2013 of Pope Benedict.

    So, especially canon lawyers, but also all theologians, and all faithful Catholics, and interested onlookers as well, fasten your seatbelts.


    She has published an article entitled: “Francis could promulgate a rule on the status of ‘Pope Emeritus'”

    The subtitle is: “New rumors about the resignation of Bergoglio, who is said to be working on a discipline of his role after the resignation”

    Again, slightly paraphrased and expanded: “Pope Francis is said (rumored) to be working on a discipline (a text laying out certain rules and regulations) for his role as a resigned Pope, for his role after he resigns from his current role as an active Pope”


    One further preliminary note.

    In 2019, Pope Francis gave an interview to an Argentine journalist and said that he expected to die in Rome.

    In an interview published in the Argentine newspaper La Nación February 27 this year — but based on a conversation from February 2019 — the Pope said that while he thinks about death, he is not afraid of it.

    “How do you imagine your death?” the Pope was asked by Argentine journalist and doctor Nelson Castro.

    “As pope, either in office or emeritus. And in Rome. I will not return to Argentina,” Francis replied.

    The interview was an excerpt from Castro’s new book, titled La Salud de Los Papas (“The Health of the Popes”), which details the health of the pontiffs from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Francis.

    According to Castro, Pope Francis encouraged him to write the book and agreed to be interviewed. The conversation took place in February 2019.


    Here is a copy of the new Calabrò article, which appeared today in the Huffington Post.

    “Francis could promulgate a rule on the status of ‘Pope Emeritus'”

    New rumors about the resignation of Bergoglio, who is said to be working on a discipline of his role after the resignation

    By Maria Antonietta Calabrò    

    The article opens with the following photo, from August 18, 2021, five days ago, showing a very active, alert, seemingly healthy Pope Francis, now 84, playing “foosball” (table soccer) during his weekly Wednesday General Audience in Paul VI Hall. (ANSA / VATICAN MEDIA)

    Here is Calabrò’s article today:

    “Stay tuned, state sintonizzati.” On August 1, 2021, the dean of American Vaticanists John Allen urged his readers to keep their ears open and alert for a possible August surprise, the Vatican equivalent of the October surprise that in American politics falls the month before the vote to choose the new president of the United States.

    Perhaps this article is the origin of the assumptions and rumors — as Antonio Socci writes today in Libero (link; and published in its entirety below) — of the imminent resignation of Pope Francis.

    So what is going on? Clearly, a climate is being recreated (but strongly still among a minority today, compared to what happened with Ratzinger, even in the mass media) similar to the climate that was created in the last year of Benedict XVI’s pontificate [Note: in 2012; Benedict resigned on February 11, 2013].

     This takes place against a backdrop: a major financial scandal, that of the London palace which even involved the Vatican Secretariat of State (in 2012, the scandal looming in the background was “only” the IOR, the Vatican’s bank), with a trial just opened against 10 defendants, including Cardinal Angelo Becciu.

    Death threats [against Pope Francis] have also arrived — as happened for Ratzinger — two different mailings of envelopes with bullets addressed to Pope Francis, the first intercepted on 9 August.    

    All seasoned with speculations on Bergoglio’s state of health, given that he underwent a colon operation on July 4th.

    The pontiff’s “frail health” despite his “iron constitution” however, disappointed those who expected the discovery of cancer: the surgery was “decisive” and it is not enough — for those who are predicting an imminent physical collapse — to speculate on the fact that the Pope’s (post-operative July health) bulletins were issued by the Vatican Press Office and not from the Gemelli Polyclinic hospital, where the surgery was performed.

    Of course, Pope Francis is an elderly man, who will turn 85 in December, but who also openly said in a (February 27) interview that he will never leave Rome (“I spent seventy-eight years in Argentina”).

    In reality, a legislative change could soon occur which, yes, greatly worries the supporters of the “Pope Emeritus.” [Note: Pope Emeritus Benedict]

     Pope Francis could soon promulgate a new law (in the form of an Apostolic Constitution) to regulate the resignation of the Pope, and especially the status following the resignation of a Pontiff.

    This is also to avoid a whole series of misleading interpretations on the existence of two Popes, on their cohabitation, on the thesis of “an enlarged papacy” and on other issues which, although not having touched the vast majority of the faithful, have fed the underground poisons of the so-called “Pope-vacantists,” [Note: “Pope” or “Papacy Vacantists”] who have come to hypothesize that the only true Pope is Ratzinger.

    In short, it is not even excluded, although it would be sensational, that for the new law there has been no Pope Emeritus at all.

    Maria Antonietta Calabrò, journalist, for 30 years at Corriere della Sera, in the Rome correspondence office. Winner of the Saint-Vincent Prize for Journalism in 2001. She has published In prima linea (1993, interviews with 10 Italian magistrates), The Secrets of the Vatican together with Gian Guido Vecchi (e-book of the Corriere della Sera, 2012) on the Vatileaks 1 case, The Hands of the Mafia, an investigative book on the bankruptcy of the Banco Ambrosiano, the IOR and the death of Roberto Calvi (2014). She currently collaborates with the Huffington Post.

    And here is Antonio Socci‘s article, which Calabrò cites, also from today:

    Pope Francis ready to resign “for health. Not age.” Tam tam in the Vatican: “Conclave air”

    By Antonio Socci

    23 August 2021

    In the Vatican, there is ever more insistence on a (coming) new conclave.

    Pope Francis would in fact have expressed his intention to leave.

    In December, among other things, he turns 85, which is the same age as Benedict XVI at the time of his resignation.

    But the reason for Bergoglio’s renunciation would not primarily be his age, but the state of health that came under the spotlight in a sudden and unexpected way with the surgery last July 4 at the Gemelli Hospital.

    In reality it would not have been a planned intervention (it is said that even the Secretary of State, Cardinal (Pietro) Parolin, did not know about the hospitalization).

    Furthermore, it seems that the Gemelli doctors would have liked to keep the Pope in the hospital longer.

    For the media and the Vatican, the issue of Popes’ health has always been problematic.

    Criticizing the official Vatican communications in this matter was above all the site Il Sismografo, which is always defined as “paravaticano” [“semi-official”] due to its proximity to the Secretariat of State (it is certainly based on Bergoglian positions).

    Many questions

    Already on 6 July, the director of the site, Luis Badilla wrote: “The information that officials decide to amplify through the press must be extremely transparent and extremely authoritative. If we are talking about medical releases, the text must bear the signature of the doctor or the team, with names and surnames; if the days of hospitalization are anticipated after colon surgery, clinical support must be given to this claim. Journalists exist to ask questions and seek the greatest possible truth and not to act as a microphone stand, otherwise the real facts cannot be distinguished from the journalistic hypotheses.”

    The next day — titled “Pope Francis does not need courtesy in the press” — Badilla rejoiced at the good progress of the Holy Father, but added: “However, there is a very significant detail that many in these hours underestimate, ignore or manipulate: the disease that has struck Pope Francis is severe and degenerative. It could also be chronic. Certainly the Holy Father will return to the Vatican to resume his journey in the footsteps of Peter but he will never be the same again. All the rhetoric about a superman Jorge Mario Bergoglio damages his image and his charisma… He knows that he will have to change his life a lot: fatigue, rest, limits, nutrition, rehabilitative physical exercises.”

    A month after the operation, Badilla noted that the press releases “on the Pope’s health conditions” have always been issued by the Vatican Press Office and “have never been signed by doctors and by the Gemelli Polyclinic,” adding that “they remain open some questions that it has never been possible to submit to the doctors who follow the Pope’s health conditions, especially on the prognosis, which — although it is a question never addressed — remains confidential.”

    So many questions for which even the Infovaticana website on 10 August headlined: “La salud del Papa no es la que dicen” [“The Pope’s health is not what they say it is”]. That it may therefore be health problems (we all hope not serious) that induce the Pope to consider resigning is more than likely.


    Over the years, Pope Bergoglio had spoken several times in interviews of his possible renunciation, but always as a hypothesis of the distant future.

    Today it seems to have become a current hypothesis.

    The first to speak of the “air of conclave” was a long-time Vatican scholar, Sandro Magister who, on July 13, titled one of his articles in his very popular Blog: “Conclave invites everyone to distance themselves from Francis.

    He did not concern himself with the Pope’s health, although he wrote shortly after the operation, but examined two “twin books” that had just come out: The Church Burns and The Lost flock. “Both,” Magister noted, “diagnosed a poor state of health in the Church, with a marked deterioration during the current pontificate.” Noting that “their authors are not at all opponents of Pope Francis.”

    The first book is by Andrea Riccardi, Church historian and founder of the Community of Sant ‘Egidio, much listened to by the Pope who often receives him in private audience and has entrusted him — among other things — with the direction of the spectacular interreligious summit chaired by Francis himself last October 20 in the Piazza del Campidoglio.

    The second book is by a newborn association called “Being here” whose number one is Giuseppe De Rita, 89 years old, founder of Censis and dean of Italian sociologists, as well as a progressive Catholic intellectual of the Montinian period. Already in the preceding weeks from the Catholic progressive world strong criticism had come to Pope Bergoglio, due to certain recent decisions of him. Giving the feeling of the end of a season.

    However, Magister, in his article, underlined the repositioning underway not only on the part of the Bergoglian intellectuals (to which the media could be added), but also on the part of the cardinals considered closest to Francis: “The time has come to take the distance from the reigning Pope, if you aim to succeed him.”

    In fact, the general situation of the Church, which is dramatic, could also affect the timing of the decision to resign: suffice it to recall the conflicts with the German and American episcopates (the two Churches that bring the most donations to the Vatican), the bleak statistics on religious practice and vocations in recent years, the confusion that is rampant among the faithful due to a hierarchy that seems too different from the clear and authoritative magisterium of the previous Popes, then the scandals, the dead end of the reforms of the Curia, the trial underway in the Vatican, the doctrinal controversies…

    The canon

    However — for a Pope who has always been extremely active like Bergoglio — the problem of physical health has a heavy impact.

    A week after the July 4 surgery, a long article was published in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, close to the Pope, dedicated to the “difficult questions raised by Francis’ advanced age.”

    The subtitle explained that, after the surgery, there was talk of possible resignation.

    According to the Argentine newspaper, “Vatican observers” believe “unanimously that Francis is not close to resigning,” but — we observe — this also happened on the eve of the resignation of Benedict XVI.

    “I can’t imagine Francis resigning while Benedict is still alive,” said Christopher Bellitto, a papal historian at Kean University in Union, New Jersey. “Having a Pope Emeritus already creates confusion. Having two would end up complicating the picture.”

    However, this topic begins to be addressed in a “scientific” way by canonists and theologians who seem to prepare the ground for official provisions of the Holy See to define precisely all the legal aspects relating to the Petrine ministry since Benedict XVI renounced and defined himself as “Pope Emeritus” (a completely new expression in the history of the Church).

    The canonist Geraldina Boni has just published “a proposal of law, the result of the collaboration of canon law science, on the totally impeded Roman see and the resignation of the Pope” so that “the supreme legislator can draw reasoned and well-argued ideas for the promulgation of legislation on these issues: legislation that now seems urgent and cannot be postponed.”

    Why such urgency after eight years in which the problem of the coexistence of two Popes seemed to be ignored by everyone?

    Perhaps precisely because there is in the air the idea of a new conclave?

    La Nacion, after having assured that Pope Francis is well and that he is not about to resign, reports the thought of Alberto Melloni, a prominent Italian Church historian who is intellectual symbol of Catholic progressive thought.

     According to Melloni, the pontificate of Pope Francis has in any case entered its final chapter:

    “When a Pope gets old, we enter an unknown and uncertain territory,” he writes.

    This does not mean, in his opinion, that Pope Bergoglio is necessarily on the eve of his resignation, but that by now the Popes will no longer want to wait for a very advanced age and poor health conditions to resign.

    According to Melloni, who sees a risk that the Vatican curia bureaucracy will take the helm, “if a Pope wants to resign, he must find the right moment, before the weakness becomes too evident.”

    And Francis, in recent weeks, between serious and jocular, told someone that next spring there could be a new Pope.


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