Pope Francis, Rescriptum ex audientia On the resignation of diocesan bishops and those holding titles of office by pontifical nomination, 3 November 2014.

Rescriptum ex audientia Sanctissimi

The Holy Father, Francis, in an audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Secretary of State on 3 November 2014, approved the provisions on the resignation of diocesan bishops and of those holding titles of office by pontifical nomination.

The Holy Father has also established that what had been determined has firm and stable validity, anything to the contrary notwithstanding, even if it be worthy of particular mention, and that it enters into vigor on 5 November 2014 with its publication in L’Osservatore romano, and, then, in the official commentary Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

From the Vatican, 3 November 2014.

Pietro Cardinal Prolin

Secretary of State

Provisions on the Resignation of Diocesan Bishops and of Those Holding Titles of Office by Pontifical Nomination

The heavy burden of the ordained ministry, understood as service (diakonia) of the holy People of God, requires, on the part of those who are responsible to perform it, that they engage all their energies. In particulars, the role of the bishop, faced with the challenges of modern society, requires great competence, abilities, and human and spiritual gifts.

In this regard, the Fathers of Vatican Council II expressed themselves in the decree Christus Dominus: “Since the pastoral office of bishops is so important and weighty, diocesan bishops and others regarded in law as their equals, who have become less capable of fulfilling their duties properly because of the increasing burden of age or some other serious reason, are earnestly requested to offer their resignation from office either at their own initiative or upon the invitation of the competent authority. If the competent authority should accept the resignation, it will make provision both for the suitable support of those who have resigned and for special rights to be accorded them” (n. 21).

Responding to the invitation that Vatican Council II had expressed, my predecessor, Blessed Paul VI, promulgated on 6 August 1966 the motu proprio Ecclesiae Sanctae (AAS, 58 [1966] 757-787) which, in n. 11 of the First Part actively invites bishops and those equivalent to them to “present spontaneously, not later than 75 years of age, their resignation from office.” These provisions were then accepted both in canons 401-402 and 411 of the existing Code of Canon Law, and in canons 210-211, 218, and 313 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.

The same criterion is also followed regarding the functions proper to Cardinals, by means of the motu proprio Ingravescentem aetatem of Blessed Paul VI on 21 November 1970 (AAS, 62 [1970] 810-813) and, more generally regarding the functions of bishops who offer their service in the Roman Curia, with the wise provision which Saint John Paul II wished to insert in article 5 of the apostolic constitution Pastor Bonus of 28 June 1988 (AAS, 80 [1980] 841-930; cf. also canon 354 CIC).

Taking into account all the above, and accepting the recommendations of the Council of Cardinals who assist the Holy Father in preparation of the reform of the Roman Curia and in the government of the Church, the following is set forth:

Art. 1 – Confirmed is the current discipline in the Latin Church and in the sui iuris Eastern Churches, by which diocesan and eparchial bishops, and those equivalent to them by canons 381 §2 CIC and 331 CCEO, as well coadjutor and auxiliary bishops, are invited to present the resignation from their pastoral office upon reaching the age of seventy-five years.

Art. 2 – Resignation from the above-mentioned pastoral offices is effective only from the moment in which it is accepted by the legitimate authority.

Art. 3 – With the acceptance of the resignation from the above-mentioned offices, those concerned also cease to hold any other office at national level conferred for a period determined in accord with the above-mentioned pastoral charge.

Art. 4 – Worthy of ecclesial appreciation is the gesture of one who, motivated by love and by the desire for a better service to the community, considers it necessary to resign from the role of pastor before reaching the age of seventy-five on account of illness or other serious reasons. In such cases, the faithful are called to demonstrate solidarity and understanding for their former pastor, providing punctual assistance consistent with the requirements of charity and justice, in accordance with canon 402 §2 CIC.

Art. 5 – In some particular circumstances, the competent authority can deem it necessary to request that a bishop present his resignation from pastoral office, after informing him of the motives for this request, and listening closely to his reasons, in fraternal dialogue.

Art. 6 – Cardinals serving as heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia and other Cardinals holding office by pontifical nomination are also required, upon the completion of their seventy-fifth year, to present their resignation from office to the Pope who, after full consideration, will proceed.

Art. 7 – The heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia who are not Cardinals, the secretaries, and the bishops who perform other offices by pontifical nomination lose their office when they have completed their seventy-fifth year; the members lose their office, when they reach their eightieth year; however, those who pertain to a dicastery by reason of another office, when they lose that office, also cease to be members.

Pope Francis, Rescriptum ex audientia On the resignation of diocesan bishops and those holding titles of office by pontifical nomination, 3 November 2014, AAS 106 (2014) 882-884. English translation by John A. Renken.