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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q. What term is used to say that a Pope has retired?

A. The act of resigning from office, retiring or renouncing a benefice or clerical dignity is called "abdication."

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Q. Can the Pope abdicate?

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.

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Q. Have any Popes ever abdicated?

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)

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Q. Is there such a thing as a conditional abdication?

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.

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