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No One Can Force A Pope To Resign – Tumi 

CameroonPostline.com — “No one can force a Pope to resign as there is no other authority superior to the Pope’s in the Catholic Church,” Douala Emeritus Archbishop, Christian Cardinal Tumi Douala Emeritus Archbishop, Christian Cardinal Tumi, participated in the last conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI.

Though no longer eligible to be part of the conclave that will elect Pope Benedict XVI’s successor when he finally retires on February 28, he, however, clarifies the circumstances that can lead to a Pope’s resignation and much more.

It is not common to see a Pope resign. We still have memories of Pope John Paul II who struggled until the end despite his age. Has Pope Benedict XVI’s announced retirement surprised you?

I was surprised because no one was expecting his resignation. But if we refer to Church law, a pope can resign if his conscience tells him that he can no longer lead the Church. Pope Benedict XVI himself explained that because of his declining strength and age, he no longer feels he is capable of shepherding the Church.

Do not forget that it is a very demanding responsibility. The resignation of a pope is a matter of conscience. If Pope John Paul II stayed on till the end it was, first, a matter of conscience. He considered resigning as a betrayal of his mission. He suffered like Christ until he died. Everybody was therefore surprised because such an experience is very rare.

You have just said Pope John Paul II considered resigning as a betrayal of his mission. Will the Faithful not be discouraged since Jesus Himself carried his cross till the end?

The reasons the Pope has given for resigning are very clear. It is the same procedure for bishops. Every bishop retires at 75 because at that age he no longer has the strength to lead the Christian community, and can no longer be as effective as when he was 50.

At 85, it is normal to resign. I recall that his elder brother was surprised that Benedict XVI even accepted to become Pope. He knew that at his age and his health problems, it could be difficult for him to assume such a responsibility. His elder brother has said his sudden resignation does not surprise him.

It is being rumoured that the Pope may have been forced to resign. However, Canon 332 §2 of the Code of Canon Law states that a pope can resign. Can you throw more light on  this subject?

Nobody can force a pope to resign. There is no authority that is superior to the pope’s in the Catholic Church. He freely took this decision.

After the Pope’s resignation, what will happen?

As he said himself, when he steps down on February 28, the Cardinals will start preparing to elect his successor and a conclave will be convened.

What should the Faithful’s attitude be at this given moment?

In daily life we see pastors retiring. There are actually four Emeritus Bishops in Cameroon now. I think it is right to give places to those who are young, that is, those who have the strength to carry out such demanding functions. Following the Pope’s resignation, we are therefore being called to the conversion of hearts.

How will he be referred to from the moment he resigns: His Holiness, Monsignor, or Eminence?

He will be called Pope Emeritus, just as we have Emeritus Archbishops.

Your Eminence, are you going to be part of the upcoming conclave?

No, no Cardinal above 80 years, like me, can take part in the conclave, but even without being there, one is always a candidate. The Cardinals can elect another bishop or even an Emeritus Cardinal. The Church’s law states that only cardinals can elect a pope for the church when the See of Peter is vacant.  The candidate chosen could be a Lay Christian, a bishop, and not necessarily a Cardinal.

What lesson has the Pope’s resignation for the Church and the world?

A good number of Head of States have already saluted Pope Benedict XVI’s decision. He has shown an evangelical courage of great depth. It is in the light of the Gospel and for the Church’s good that the Pope has resigned.

This shows that whether one is a Head of State or a civil servant, once he realises that he can no longer governor serve, he should not be afraid to resign, that is, to give up the position for a younger person. The Pope has made the decision only for the Church’s good. There is no other reason.

He has said he will retire and will continue praying for the Church. It is a great lesson in humility as there are bishops who do not want to retire, but the Pope himself has set a good example. One should have the courage to give up a position for someone younger. Those who are afraid of retiring are those who did not manage well and are worried that their successor will uncover their bad work.

What impressions do you have of Pope Benedict XVI whom you have known as a Bishop and Cardinal?

Benedict XVI is a man of faith and he has even declared a Year of Faith because today faith is declining. He has deemed it necessary to invite the whole Church to pray that God should continue strengthening the Church’s faith, that is, the faith of each member, and of each baptised person. Pope Benedict XVI is also a great intellectual and a great theologian.  I will remember him as a pastor who writes simply but profoundly.

Courtesy L’Effort Camerounais
First published in The Post print edition no 01411

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