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Pope Benedict's resignation and the mystery of the missing encyclical
cns ^ | February 15, 2013 | Francis X. Rocca

Posted on 02/16/2013 5:49:59 AM PST by NYer


(CNS/Paul Haring)

By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI's historic decision to resign at the end of February has astonished and perplexed the world in many ways, not least because of what might be called the mystery of the missing encyclical.

In December, the Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said that Pope Benedict's fourth encyclical would be released in the first half of 2013. Treating the subject of faith, the encyclical would complete a trilogy on the three "theological virtues," following "Deus Caritas Est" (2005) on charity, and "Spe Salvi" (2007) on hope.

Then, on the day after the pope's announcement, Father Lombardi announced that Pope Benedict would not issue another encyclical after all.

The news was surprising because it suggested that Pope Benedict, a former professor who has placed a priority on his teaching role as pope, had abandoned the most prominent teaching project of his pontificate just before its completion. This, even though Father Lombardi said that the pope had pondered resignation for several months, and the Vatican newspaper reported that he first considered the move in March 2012.

It was hardly plausible that so prolific an author might be suffering from writer's block, even given the deteriorating "strength of mind and body" he cited in announcing his resignation. Three days after that announcement, Pope Benedict delivered a highly structured, 46-minute long public talk, without a prepared text and only occasionally consulting his notes.

But unlike an off-the-cuff speech, papal encyclicals are not one-man productions. Though the pope ultimately determines their content, they are typically the fruit of much behind-the-scenes collaboration with Vatican officials and often with outside consultants as well. Pope Benedict's last encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate" (2009), appeared more than a year after its expected date, reportedly because of complications in this process. It is likely that such was the case again this time.

Father Lombardi has suggested that the former Pope Benedict might eventually publish the document under his own name, in which case it would not rank as part of the papal magisterium. But it is at least as likely that his successor will take up and finish the task.

Popes tend to honor their predecessors' commitments, which is why everyone assumes that the next pope will travel to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in July. Indeed, Pope Benedict's own first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," was started by his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II.

If the next pope does finish the encyclical on faith, there is reason to think that his predecessor will be happy to have left it incomplete.

A major papal document whose production bridged the transition between the two pontificates could serve as a reassuring sign of continuity after Pope Benedict's practically unprecedented move. At the same time, since the next pope would undoubtedly stamp the encyclical with his distinctive priorities and style, it would exemplify Pope Benedict's ideal of reform as "innovation in continuity" with church tradition.

Pope Benedict has been careful throughout his pontificate to distinguish his personal writings from his papal documents, by publishing his bestselling series of "Jesus of Nazareth" books under the name Joseph Ratzinger. The knowledge that the next encyclical was the work of more than one pope would further underscore its impersonal character and reinforce the idea, which Pope Benedict has conveyed so dramatically through his resignation, that the papacy is an office distinct from any individual who might hold it.

Only three days before he announced he would step down, the outgoing pope said something that has acquired a more personal meaning in light of that historic event. Commenting on the First Letter of Peter to an audience of seminarians, Pope Benedict noted internal evidence that the apostle and first pope was not the epistle's sole author.

"He does not write alone, an isolated individual, he writes with the help of the church," Pope Benedict said. "Peter does not speak as an individual, he speaks 'ex persona Ecclesiae,' he speaks as a man of the church ... He does not want to say only his word, but truly carries in himself the waters of the faith, the waters of all the church, and precisely this way gives fertility, gives fecundity and is a personal witness who opens himself to the Lord."



TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: encyclical; mystery; vatican

1 posted on 02/16/2013 5:50:05 AM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
(Note: Edward Pentin has reported that the text of the expected encyclical is a "beautiful" text and that Benedict planned to use the encyclical to share his reflections on what it means to be a Christian today, the role of faith in the life of man and society and the value of Christian truths. These will be linked to the “mystery” of Easter, at a time when, in many respects, the world is in crisis. Vatican Insider claims the new encyclical has been getting “rave reviews” from those who have already seen drafts. “The text of the Pope is beautiful,” a senior prelate in the Curia is reported as saying. “With his simple language, Benedict XVI expresses even the most complex and profound truths which are able to reach a diffusion that goes beyond imagination.” But will this encyclical come out before February 28?)

The Moynihan Report: Letter #7: Reflections on Benedict's Resignation

2 posted on 02/16/2013 5:51:41 AM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer

This view, if correct, reinforces the idea that His Holiness abdicated in pursuance of his plan to carry on the movement toward firmness in Tradition through generations to come, — and not because his goals were defeated by the modernizers.


3 posted on 02/16/2013 6:53:22 AM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: annalex

My hunch is that he is stepping down because he has Alzheimer’s. I read that he will discontinue writing after he steps down. Why would he do that when he will have so much time on his hands? It sounds to me as if he is about at the same stage of Alzheimer’s as was Ronald Reagan when he wrote his letter announcing he had the disease. Just a hunch.


4 posted on 02/16/2013 10:14:38 AM PST by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: murron

Vitamin B12


5 posted on 02/16/2013 10:43:05 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: NYer
Pope Benedict's resignation and the mystery of the missing encyclical
Benedict, Dawkins, and the Fullness of Reason
Benedict XVI: Vatican II as I saw it
Benedict’s renunciation and the wolves within the church
The Left Lobbies for a Liberal Successor to Benedict (and here is why)

Pope Benedict's Future Residence
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"Re-Elect Pope Benedict" - “Eight more years!”
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The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI: A commentary by Fr. Barron
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Conclave & The Media: The Silly Season

Cardinal Bertone's Farewell Address to the Holy Father
"Thank You – Let Us Return to Prayer": For the Last Time, The Pope Leaves the Altar
"Today, We Begin A New Journey" – Liturgically Speaking, B16's Last Word
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Some Interesting Tidbits From Today’s Vatican press conference
Pope Decided to Resign After Cuba Trip, Vatican Advisor Says
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The challenge Pope Benedict has left for his successor—and for ordinary Catholics

Historian Notes Precedents for Papal Resignation
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Cardinal Sodano to Pope Benedict: “We have heard you with a sense of loss and almost disbelief”
Pope's resignation invokes sadness, gratitude from US bishops

Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Report: Brother Says Pope Was Considering Resignation for Months
Some Notes About the Upcoming Conclave
An Evangelical Looks at Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict’s Resignation in Historical Context
Virtually unprecedented: papal resignation throughout history
Pope Benedict XVI:a papal timeline
"I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome" [Full Text]
Pope Benedict's Address on Resignation of the See of Rome
POPE BENEDICT XVI WILL RESIGN AT THE END OF THIS MONTH, VATICAN PRESS OFFICE TELLS FOX NEWS

6 posted on 02/16/2013 10:43:45 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: murron

You wrote:

“Why would he do that when he will have so much time on his hands?”

Because of the natural problem it would create. Only one man can be pope at a time. When a former pope keeps publishing it can create confusion. Men who were once pope almost always DELIBERATELY lead very quiet lives when they leave the papal throne to be sure and not draw attention away from the current pope.

U.S. Presidents do something similar when you think about. They might still write, but until Clinton, they generally lived lives of quiet retirement.


7 posted on 02/16/2013 11:59:01 AM PST by vladimir998
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To: zot; NYer

The main post and Moynihan Rpt #7 are both worth reading.

The latter distinguishes between ‘retire’ vs ‘renounce.’ Now to consult the dictionary for where/if ‘abdicate’ fits in.


8 posted on 02/16/2013 12:01:58 PM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: murron
Alzheimer’s

This militates against you hunch. Alzheimer’s is not like a stroke, it is a condition that deteriorates relatively slowly; there is no indication he could not, especially with aides available, struiglle on another year:

Three days after that announcement, Pope Benedict delivered a highly structured, 46-minute long public talk, without a prepared text and only occasionally consulting his note [...] Father Lombardi has suggested that the former Pope Benedict might eventually publish the document under his own name

Especially since he is leaving unfinished business: the continuing dissent in the Church and the delicate SSPX negotiations.

9 posted on 02/16/2013 12:13:48 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: GreyFriar; NYer

Abdication:1:a formal resignation and renunciation of powers; thus I intrepretate Pope Benedict’s move as the same as King Edward VII’s. He will return to being Cardinal Ratzinger, and thus no ‘two pope’ problem.


10 posted on 02/16/2013 12:23:32 PM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: GreyFriar; xzins
The Pope wrote (the Curia only published the Italian, no Latin)

"dichiaro di rinunciare al ministero di Vescovo di Roma" (DECLARATIO)

This dictionary says, as a transitive verb it expresses "abdicate":

www.wordreference.com/enit/abdicate

11 posted on 02/16/2013 12:39:35 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: zot; NYer; xzins; annalex

My apologies, it was Edward VIII (eighth) that abdicated the British throne, not Edward the Seventh. Edward VII died in 1910.


12 posted on 02/16/2013 2:56:11 PM PST by GreyFriar (Spearhead - 3rd Armored Division 75-78 & 83-87)
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To: GreyFriar

There have been several sources that have attempted to clarify the terminology vis a vis the mainstream media. When I post these threads, I do so in their original format.


13 posted on 02/16/2013 3:15:03 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: annalex

Of course I know that Alzheimer’s isn’t a sudden onset disease. I know people with the disease. I’m saying that he may have been having symptoms for a while, and that he may be at the stage where he is still funcitional at this point, but knows his mind is deteriorating and his decision making and day to day functions may be compromised as the disease progresses. Ronald Reagan delivered a great speech at the 1992 Republican convention, but not long after that dropped out of public sight when he announced he had Alzheimer’s.
The fact that he is not going to issue the encyclical now as Pope feeds more into my hunch. His spokesman says that he will issue it as a private citizen. I believe it is a promise that will fall by the wayside. Only time will tell.


14 posted on 02/16/2013 4:30:51 PM PST by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: annalex

Abdicate is a better word than either resign or renounce due to alternate meanings of those words.


15 posted on 02/16/2013 4:33:17 PM PST by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! True supporters of our troops pray for their victory!)
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To: annalex

Abdicate is a better word than either resign or renounce due to alternate meanings of those words.


16 posted on 02/16/2013 4:35:11 PM PST by xzins (Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of It! True supporters of our troops pray for their victory!)
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To: murron

Again, he can’t have any debilitating symptoms now if he is delivering unscripted complex talks, so your speculation is without evidence.


17 posted on 02/16/2013 5:03:33 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: xzins

Of course it’s abdication in essence. Our press is not used to dealing with royalty, hence the sloppy translations.


18 posted on 02/16/2013 5:04:48 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: annalex

I have a dumb question.He is Pope until the new Pope is named right?


19 posted on 02/16/2013 5:58:42 PM PST by fatima (Free Hugs Today :))
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To: GreyFriar

Thanks for the ping. Abdicate is the proper word for this action.


20 posted on 02/16/2013 6:12:39 PM PST by zot
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To: fatima
No, when he steps down on Feb 28 at 8:00 p.m. Rome time, the Church will have no pope. Temporary authority will pass into the hands of the camerlengo (chamberlain: the highest-ranking cardinal) and the College of Cardinals. The period during which the papal office is vacant is known as the sede vacante ("vacant seat").
21 posted on 02/16/2013 7:37:16 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o
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To: Mrs. Don-o

Thanks.


22 posted on 02/16/2013 7:50:21 PM PST by fatima (Free Hugs Today :))
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To: annalex

Yes, he can, if he’s in the beginning stages. Besides, of course my speculation is without evidence. That’s why it’s called speculation.


23 posted on 02/17/2013 11:26:04 AM PST by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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To: annalex

You underestimate what he has been all of his life. He is capable of delivering highly technical and precisely scholarly presentations with no notes, completely off the cuff. He is absolutely brilliant and always has been.

A degradation of what he has been is still more than almost anyone now living can deliver at the peak of their powers.


24 posted on 03/01/2013 8:14:25 AM PST by michigancatholic
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To: murron

Yes, he can. But he may have an inkling what’s coming and be preparing for it.

Alzheimers isn’t the only possibility either. Some are guessing that maybe it’s congestive heart failure that’s the problem. I remind everyone that diagnosis at a distance by amateurs is a fool’s errand. None of us really know what his medical status is, and can only see some symptoms—weight loss, etc.


25 posted on 03/01/2013 8:17:37 AM PST by michigancatholic
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To: michigancatholic

Neither of us knows, but while I see stark evidence of old age: weight loss, blind in one eye, etc., I don’t see any signs of mental decline.

As far as remote diagnosis, I always noticed the dark shadows around his eyes, even years ago. I thought that was a sign of heart disease. I am not a doctor.


26 posted on 03/01/2013 5:57:08 PM PST by annalex (fear them not)
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To: michigancatholic

Well, we won’t see any symptoms now. He’ll be out of sight. And I don’t know about anyone else, I’m not diagnosing. I’m just hazarding a guess what would have made him take such a drastic and historic step and leave us popeless.


27 posted on 03/02/2013 1:25:23 PM PST by murron (Proud Mom of a Marine Vet)
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