PREPARATIONS for the election of a new pope may have long been underway.
“The Apostolic See would be vacant but this was because of a resignation, not because of death,” said Msgr. Raul Go, a Canon lawyer. “Maka-prepare ang mga cardinals for the election of a new Pope. The resignation was done while he (Pope Benedict XVI) is still capable of preparing for the transition (to the new papacy).”
Go was referring to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, which was announced at a regular consistory of cardinals of the Roman Curia last Monday.
“In today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Perter and proclaim the Gospel,” the Pope said in his letter.
In contrast, the predecessor of Pope Benedict XVI, Blessed Pope John Paul II, suffered a lingering illness and died while in office.
With the resignation, the Vatican News Service reported the conclave to elect a successor would be composed of 117 electors.
In the Philippines, only Manila Archbishop Antonio Cardinal Tagle can participate as the new regulations limits the age of electors to 80.
Monsignor Go, in his opinion, said the tone of the Pope’s letter is that his condition is deteriorating so his strength is already limited.
“He (Pope) has a very high standard of leadership,” he said.
The Pope’s letter, Go observed, was in keeping with the provision of the new Canon Law that was revised in 1983. Among the revisions is the entry on papal resignation.
Go explained that the move to revise the Code, which was formulated in 1917, was raised during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. It took about 20 years to formulate the new Code of Canon Law.
In the first chapter of the section on the Supreme Authority of the Church titled “The Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops,” number 332, paragraph 2 states that: Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone.
There are three requirements that should be fulfilled if a pope resigns. These are freedom, it should be in writing and there should be witnesses.
Pope Benedict XVI stated in his letter that he is “aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Peter.”
He read the letter at the consistory of cardinals where the canonization of three blessed persons was approved last Feb. 11.
The pope also didn’t need any approval to resign, Go said.
“He is already the supreme authority in the church, who else is there to accept it? So when he resigns, it has to be accepted,” he said.
“The requirement that the resignation be made before witnesses is meant to safeguard authenticity. But with the validity, there is no need for approval or acceptance,” he said.