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Rome & the World: mandatory retirement for popes?

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Pope Francis during his weekly general audience September 28, 2022

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 10/14/22

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Friday 14 October 2022
1. The return of the debate on the mandatory retirement of popes
2. In Stuttgart, theologians will be able to baptize
3. The relationship between China and the Catholic Church seen through education 
4. Synodality and and the listening Church 
5. New Zealand bishops call for welcoming sexual diversity in Catholic education

1The return of the debate on the mandatory retirement of popes

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, Crux reports on the voices that suggest limiting the length of a pope’s mandate. The rule of mandatory retirement age for bishops, enacted during the Second Vatican Council (decree Christus Dominus), was first imposed in 1966. One year after the Council, Paul VI issued his apostolic letter Ecclesiae Sanctae, or “[Governing] of the Holy Church,” which set the retirement age for Catholic bishops worldwide at 75. Four years later, in 1970, Paul VI issued a similar decree entitled Ingravescentem Aetatem, or “Advancing Age,” applying the mandatory retirement age of 75 to cardinals and establishing the rule that only those who had not reached the age of 80 could participate in a conclave. These rules remain in effect to this day, but Pope Francis made some adjustments in 2014, stipulating in a papal rescript that, rather than “inviting” prelates to submit their resignations, which was the language used by Paul VI, cardinal heads of all Roman Curia offices “are required” to submit their resignations when they turn 75. It should be noted that there is no mandatory retirement age for popes, since they hold the office for life. In a 2015 interview with journalist Valentina Alazraki of Mexican television station Televisa, Pope Francis expressed skepticism about the possibility of setting the papal retirement age at 80, which is when cardinals lose their voting rights in the conclave.“One could imagine it, but the idea of setting an age limit does not appeal to me, because I believe that the papacy has an element of being the final authority. It is a special grace,” he said. While a pope’s physical and mental capacity to govern can be questioned, only he can decide whether to step down or set a mandatory papal retirement age. However, it does not appear that Pope Francis is the one who will do this, the American media outlet concludes. 

Crux, English 

2In Stuttgart, theologians will be able to baptize

From November 1, by decree of Bishop Gerhard Fürst, it will be policy that lay people baptize others in the Diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in non-emergency settings. This decision was made after a request from the population, said Auxiliary Bishop Matthaüs Karrer, who explained that families in Württemberg had asked to be able to celebrate “individual, personal and family baptisms.” He also said that the regulation is in accordance with canon law and the resolutions adopted by the German Synodal path. This process is concerned with how to respond to three major challenges for the Church in Germany, one of which is the critical shortage of priests. Although only theologians will be able to perform this sacrament, this could open doors in the future, since the representative of lay theologians working in pastoral ministry has called for them to be able to perform the anointing of the sick and the sacrament of marriage. She is also considering proposing the possibility of celebrating the sacrament of confirmation. Burial, which is not a sacrament, has been handled by lay theologians for years. The Diocese of Stuttgart is not the first to allow lay people to baptize: the Diocese of Essen already allowed it last spring. Although the procedure seems to generate broad support, it is not unanimously accepted in Germany, with several theologians contesting the legitimacy of a lay person to dispense a sacrament in an institutional way., German 

3. The relationship between China and the Catholic Church seen through education 

An interview with Jesuit research priest You Guo Jiang, a professor at Boston College, reveals the contours and shape of Chinese engagement with Christianity. 

La Civiltà Cattolica, English 

4. Synodality and and the listening Church 

Between listening, fears, expectations, criticism, where does the Synod stand? “The synod has opened a space in which disputed questions are being addressed,” says Vatican journalist Christopher Lamb. 

The Tablet, English

5. New Zealand bishops call for compassion for sexual diversity in Catholic education

In a directive, the Bishops of New Zealand recommend that Catholic schools show “compassion,” “respect” and “sensitivity” to LGBT students.

La Croix Africa, French 

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