The Validity of Benedict's Resignation of the Papal Ministerium and Munus

 From the Mail

Email Exchange over the validity of Benedict's Renunciation of the Papal Ministerium (and munus)

Laudetur Iesus Christus! 

Good morning, dear Dr. Salza and dear Mr. Siscoe.

Here I am with three Yes’s to three very important Questions in these Last Times: 

1) Is Resignation of Benedict XVI valid?

Yes, it is. 

2) Is Benedict XVI still the (one and only) Pope?

Yes, He is. 

3) Is Benedict XVI really the Bishop Emeritus of Rome:

after He renounced the active exercise of His ministery of Bishop of Rome on February 11th 2013 with effective date February 28th 2013, 08:00 pm?

Yes, He is. 

Very simply:

Pope Emeritus = ( Pope ) and ( Bishop Emeritus of Rome ). 

I thank you for your Attention, dear Dr. Salza and dear Mr. Siscoe; and I thank you anticipatedly for arguing your personal answer to the Question 2: since it is different from the second one of above Answers, as well as not coherent with the first and third ones. 

God Bless you, 


Robert Siscoe replies:

Dear FMP 

Thank you for the email and question.  I am going to begin by summarizing your position according to your three yes’s. 

You agree that Benedict validly resigned (yes #1) the active exercise of His ministry (ministerium) as the bishop of Rome (yes #3), but you nevertheless believe he remained the one and only Pope (yes #2) until the day of his death (which happened after you send the email). 

Now, although you didn’t mention it, I assume that the reason you believe he remained Pope is because you believe the valid resignation only applied to the active exercise of the ministry (ministerium), but not the munus (office) itself. 

The first problem is that the munus and ministerium cannot be separated. Just as it is not possible to resign from the munus while retaining the ministerium, neither is it possible to resign from the ministerium while retaining the munus.   If a Pope resigns the ministerium, the munus itself becomes vacant.  Benedict himself made that clear in the declaratio, when he said:


I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is. 

Notice that his stated intention was to renounce the ministry “in such a way” that the See of Peter would become vacant.  In other words, his stated intention was to renounce the ministry and the office. 

But let us assume for the sake of argument that Benedict did not intend to resign “in such a way” that “the See of Peter" would become “vacant,” but instead only intended to renounce the active exercise of the ministry, while retaining the office itself.  And let us further assume that only the resignation (renunciation) of the active exercise of the ministry was valid. 

Even if all that were true, Benedict would still have ceased to be Pope (completely) on February 28, 2013, for the following reason. 

What makes a man Pope is possessing the jurisdiction of the papal office. Jurisdiction is what gives the Pope the authority to “actively exercise the ministerium,” by teaching, governing and sanctifying. Jurisdiction is the form of the Papal office.  By renouncing the “active exercise of the ministry,” Benedict thereby divested himself of jurisdiction, and by divesting himself of jurisdiction he ceased to be Pope formally.  

The fact that Benedict intentionally gave up his jurisdiction is confirmed by the title that he chose – “Pope Emeritus”.   The one who holds title to an office enjoys the rights, duties and privileges of the office.  “Emeritus” is the title given to a retired bishop (Canon 402.1); that is, to a bishop who has given up his jurisdiction over a diocese so another could take it up.  

So even the title that Benedict chose confirms that he willingly divested himself of his jurisdiction, and again, by giving up his jurisdiction, he ceased to be Pope.  

Professor Violo's Study

Since you used the phrase “active exercise of the ministry,” I assume you are familiar with the 2014 study by Stefano Violi, Professor of Canon Law, which was the first to posit that Benedict only intended to renounce part of the Papacy, and which used the phrase “active exercise of the office” to describe what Violi believed Benedict intended to renounce.  

I wrote an article about Violi’s study back in 2014, which included the following excerpts from an article that Vittori Messori published in Corriera della Sera on the same subject.  Notice carefully what Messori said Violi believed Benedict intended to retain, and what he intended to renounce.   

“In the formula employed by Benedict, primarily, there is a distinction between the munus, the papal office, and the execution, that is the active exercise of the office itself: but the executio is twofold: there is the governmental aspect which is exercised agendo et loquendo (working and teaching); but there is also the spiritual aspect, no less important, which is exercised orando et patendo (praying and suffering). It is that [the spiritual aspect] which would be behind Benedict XVI’s words: “I do not return to private life […] I no longer bear the power of the office for the governance of the Church [i.e., jurisdiction], but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter.”  “Enclosure” here would not be meant only in the sense of a geographical place, where one lives, but also a theological “place.”


Benedict XVI divested himself of all the power of government and command inherent in his office [jurisdiction], without however, abandoning his service to the Church: this continues through the exercise of the spiritual dimension [praying and suffering] of the pontifical munus entrusted to him. This he did not intend renouncing. He renounced not his duties, which are, irrevocable, but the concrete execution of them. 

The “office” of praying and suffering (orando et patendo), which is what Professor Violi posited that Benedict intended to retain, does not require jurisdiction.  The office of working and teaching, on the other hand, does; it requires “the power of the office for the governance of the Church,” which is what Benedict explicitly stated that he “no longer bears”.  And if he “no longer bears” the “power of the office” (which is jurisdiction) he is no longer Pope, since jurisdiction is what makes a Pope the (one and only) Pope. 

If you have any follow up questions, let me know. 

In Christ,


Robert Siscoe