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Q. What term is used to say that a Pope has retired?Return to Table of Contents
A. The act of resigning from office, retiring or renouncing a benefice or clerical dignity is called "abdication."
Q. Can the Pope abdicate?Return to Table of Contents
A. In the 1980's, concerned by the fact that medical advances can maintain a person's life much longer, that there could exist the possibility of a Pope having to rule from a hospital bed, and in consideration of the arduous task of leading the Church, the Holy Father approved a revision to the Church's Canon Law that now provides for the retirement of a Pope.
Should a Pope decide to abdicate, it must be voluntary. Since the College of Cardinals is responsible for the election of a successor, the Pope who abdicates must do so in the hands of the College of Cardinals.
Q. Have any Popes ever abdicated?Return to Table of Contents
A. Yes. The following Popes have abdicated:
Marcellinus in 304 A.D.;
Liberius in 366 A.D.;
Benedict IX in 1045 A.D.;
Gregory VI in 1046 A.D.;
St. Celestine V in 1294 A.D.; and
Gregory XII in 1415 A.D.
Benedict XVI on February 11, 2013 A.D. (Effective February 28, 2013)
Q. Is there such a thing as a conditional abdication?Return to Table of Contents
A. In 1804, Pope Pius VII signed a conditional abdication before setting out for France to crown Napoleon, such to take effect if he were imprisoned. There was no need for its implementation.