What happens if Pope Francis resigns? The protocols in place for the retreat

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Speculation over Pope Francis’ future continues to grow as the Vatican announced on Friday that he would not take part in a planned trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in July.

“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to compromise the results of the therapy he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, scheduled for July 2-7, at a later date to be determined,” Matteo Bruni, director of the Holy See Press Office, said in a statement.

The knee problem prompted the pope, 85, to use a wheelchair during recent events. And, in July 2021, he underwent bowel surgery, which kept him in hospital for 10 days.

While rumors that the pope is ill and ready to resign are common in the Italian media, speculation has been renewed by the announcement that the pope will visit L’Aquila in central Italy at the end of August, as previous popes (rare) who have retired. .

But is this the protocol for the resignation of a pontiff?

What is the protocol if a Pope resigns

Pope Francis, seated in a wheelchair after knee treatment, waves as he leaves after presiding over the Rosary for peace in Ukraine and an end to wars around the world, May 31, 2022 at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome . Rumors of the pope’s resignation have been fueled by various health issues.
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

Newsweek found no set-in-stone protocol for such an event as it is very rare. The only certainty if the pope has to resign is that the cardinals will meet to name a successor.

The College of Cardinals is made up of the highest officials of the Catholic Church. They are appointed by the pope and ordained by bishops.

Newsweek has contacted the Vatican for comment.

What happened the last time a pope resigned?

The last pope to step down was Benedict XVI, who left the Holy See on February 28, 2013 – the first pontiff to step down in around 600 years. He said his resignation was due to concerns about his health.

At the time, the Vatican indicated that Benedict XVI would retain the honorary title of “His Holiness” after the abdication and would be known as “Pope Emeritus”. He would wear a “simple white cassock” and his official ring as pope would be destroyed according to Vatican tradition. It is unclear whether this would apply to Pope Francis if he chose to retire.

Thirteen days after his official resignation, on March 13, 2013, the College of Cardinals officially elects Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who will become Pope Francis, as head of the Catholic Church. To signal that a new pope has been appointed, white smoke rises from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.

Will Pope Francis resign?

The pope has not officially announced that he will resign. As stated above, the rumors have been reignited due to the fact that Francis is set to visit the Italian town of L’Aquila in August for a party.

The “Feast of Forgiveness” was inaugurated by Pope Celestine V, who abdicated in 1294.

Robert Mickens, editor of the English edition of The crossa Catholic daily, said: “It’s very weird to have a consistory in August, there’s no reason for him to call it [event] three months in advance and then go to L’Aquila right in the middle.”

Benedict XVI also visited L’Aquila in 2009. He will retire four years later.

The celebrations will begin a day after Francis prepares to appoint 21 new cardinals, who can elect a new pope.

Additionally, the Vatican officially announced two days of talks after the holiday and to brief new cardinals on the Francis-backed reforms being made to the Vatican bureaucracy. These include allowing women to run Vatican offices.

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