Log In

Considerations on the Bishop Emiritus

Iustitia --> Penal Laws in the Church -->Considerations on the Bishop Emiritus

George D. Gallaro deals with the Notion of the Bishop Emiritus and makes an analogy between “jubilarian” and “emiritus” to show the difference between the two. He also treats Episcopal Order and the Condtion of Bishop Emiritus; The Development of the Figure of the Bishop Emiritus; The Origin of the Category of Bishop based on CIC c. 401 and CCEO c. 210; Rights and Duties of the Bishops Emiritus in the Latin and the Oriental Codes.
My Page Title


Vol. 2, No. 2, December 2012

Pages: 295-312


George D. Gallaro

George D. Gallaro deals with the Notion of the Bishop Emiritus and makes an analogy between “jubilarian” and “emiritus” to show the difference between the two. He also treats Episcopal Order and the Condtion of Bishop Emiritus; The Development of the Figure of the Bishop Emiritus; The Origin of the Category of Bishop based on CIC c. 401 and CCEO c. 210; Rights and Duties of the Bishops Emiritus in the Latin and the Oriental Codes.


The category of “bishop emeritus” has its roots in Vatican Council II. There is currently a very high number of bishops in this category. In America, for example, there are about one hundred bishops with the title “emeritus,” a figure which is almost half the total of those pastors in charge of the local Churches throughout the entire country.

Important for our considerations here is not only the high number of existing bishops emeriti, but above all the meaning of their presence in the Churches—as much on the universal plane as on the local level, their relationship with the pope and with the college of bishops, their juridical condition, the role they exercise and which they are potentially able to carry out, and even the human problems with respect to them, especially in relation to the feelings of solitude and abandonment they can experience.

1. The Notion of “Emititus”

From the juridical standpoint, the notion of “emeritus” is a fruit of the post-conciliar canonical codification. The very term “bishop emeritus” was coined by the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) since, beforehand, even the documents of the Holy See and those of the episcopal conferences used the terminology of “resigned bishops” or, more generally, of “bishops who have left office.”

It should be made clear that the qualifier “emeritus” is not to be confused with that of “pensioned,” because the latter not only implies the breaking of all ties between the person and the office he undertook, but also the gaining of the right to receive a pension for appropriate, personal support. In the present case, the bishop instead remains linked by juridical, spiritual and affective bonds to the diocese/eparchy he has served, while his jurisdiction over it ceases. For this reason, the expression “emeritus” is not to be confused with that of “superannuated” [ collocamento a riposo ], which indicates the end of every relationship between an employee and his office, with the consequent termination of every right and duty connected with the status accorded to him during the term of his employment.

1.1. Difference between Emiritus and Jubilarian

An analogy can be found instead between the institution of “jubilarian” and that of “emeritus.” For example the 1917 CIC c. 422 §1 considered the two terms to be synonymous in reference to canons: “ Those enjoying prebends can seek only from the Apostolic See an indult of emeritus , that is , as they say , jubilarian , [status] after forty continuous and laudable years of choir service in the same or distinct Churches in the same city or at least diocese . ” The similarity between the two institutions lies in the recognition of the continual and praiseworthy dedication offered for the sake of the diocese/eparchy and in the release, for reasons of age, from regular service, while a tie with the office they undertook remains. But the difference between the two institutions is evident in the fact that being a jubilarian brings the privilege of no longer having to carry the burden that derives from the office, while still enjoying the honors and, above all, the rights and other benefits offered by it. Other differences depend on the specific case considered in the canon cited above:

a) the subjects of jubilarian status are not bishops, but secular canons;

b) the recognition is not owed by right but gratuitously granted by the Apostolic See;

c) the object regards the permanence of the title of office and the right to receive either the revenue connected to the benefice or the fruits of the distribution among the secular canons present in the cathedral choir.

The notion of emeritus proper to the codes currently in force stems from canon 185 of the Latin code which is general in character, as well as from canon 965 §4 of the Eastern code. The Latin code reads: “ The title of emeritus can be conferred upon the person who loses an office by reason of age or by a resignation which has been accepted .” The Eastern code reads: “The title of emeritus can be conferred upon a person who loses an office because of reaching the age determined by law or because of resignation.” So emeritus status consists only in an honorary title that an authority competent to provide an office can offer to one who has lost the office either by having reached the retirement age or by having his resignation accepted. Its conferral is based on the praiseworthy exercise of an office, in relation to which there is no other remaining bond other than the honorific one of bearing the title; yet it is clear that he is no longer the regular titular.

As regards the case that interests us here, canon 402 § 1 of the Latin code and canon 211 § 1 of the Eastern code provide that the diocesan/eparchial bishop has by right the title “emeritus” of the diocese/eparchy he has served. However, the same does not apply to coadjutor or auxiliary bishops; (CIC c. 411; CCEO c. 218) to whom emeritus status can still be conferred by concession from the competent authority according to canon 185 of the Latin code and canon 965 § 4 of the Eastern code. Therefore, a local Church, besides having its own bishop, can have one or more titular bishops of the same diocese, by reason of their being emeriti or coadjutors of the same. In relation to the diocese/eparchy they have served, the bishops emeriti have no power, nor office, nor delegated authority, unless they have received a responsibility for such from the new diocesan/eparchial bishop.

Still, it would be wrong to confine the figure of the “bishop emeritus” within such narrow limits. The noun “bishop” contains his whole identity, to which is added the qualifier “emeritus.” Reference is made to the juridical profile in canons 402 § 1, 443, § 2, and 1242 of the Latin code as well as canons 211 § 1, 431 § 2, and 874 § 3 of the Eastern code, which present particular aspects of the profile of the bishop emeritus.

2. Episcopal Order and the Condition of Emeritus

Let us now briefly examine the reach of the first of the two terms in the expression “bishop emeritus.” On this matter, CIC can. 375 § 1 synthesizes the teaching of Vatican Council II, stating: “ Through the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops are the successors of the apostles by divine institution; they are constituted as pastors within the Church so that they are teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship and ministers of governance .” All of this regards the “bishops in general,” as article 1, already stated in the cited canon, is entitled. This leaves out of consideration the missio canonica that permits the individual to exercise the episcopal munera in a local Church.

It is by virtue of episcopal ordination that the bishop receives the offices of sanctifying, teaching and governing, “ which by their very nature, however, can be exercised only when in hierarchical communion with the head of the college and its members ” (CIC c. 375 § 2). The expressions used by the Latin code seem carved in stone for their lapidary form, as if to indicate that not even the change of a comma may be allowed, since it risks altering that doctrinal harmony reached in Lumen gentium , nn. 21-22, which, in turn, demands that it be explained and interpreted not liberally but “according to the opinion and judgment” required by the “Nota explicativa praevia” of Pope Paul VI.

In the context of the conciliar ecclesial vision, one can perceive some problems underlying the canonical norm which are not objects of this brief study. It seems important, however, to recall the following points, since they evidence the complexity of the problem we are discussing:

a) the incidence of the episcopal order—which confers the fullness of this sacrament and the highest degree of priesthood—in the organization of the ecclesial body, i.e. of the whole people of God;

b) the double dimension of the episcopal order, i.e. the personal one that conforms the ordained man ontologically to Christ the Head, and the social one that incorporates him into the ordo episcoporum and expresses itself in the collegiality of the bishops;

c) the reception in episcopal ordination of the tria munera (sanctifying, teaching, governing) which are inseparable from each other and which the bishops must exercise for the good of the faithful, according to procedures that must be determined even juridically;

d) the relation between the sacramental and juridical aspects in the exercise of the sacra potestas conferred on the bishops;

e) the relations of a juridical/institutional nature between the Roman Pontiff on the one hand, and the college of bishops on the other, and furthermore between the Roman Pontiff and the bishops individually;

f) the relationship between the universal level and the local level, the former being expressed by the various ecclesial communities—a relationship that passes through intermediate stages which, in our case, are represented by particular councils and, in a different way, by synod of bishops /episcopal conferences and by hierarchical assemblies (patriarchal, major archiepiscopal, and metropolitan).

By being incorporated into the college of bishops through episcopal ordination and hierarchical communion, the individual members of the college acquire several juridical rights, both active and passive, for their whole lives. These are also proper to the bishops emeriti and are reflected in norms spread throughout various books/titles in the codes. From the whole of those scattered passages, compiled here and prepared according to the perspectives indicated below, there emerges a specific juridical profile of the bishop emeritus, subsequently outlined by some provisions following the codes and by the deliberations of episcopal conferences and hierarchical assemblies.

3. The Development of the Figure of the Bishop Emeritus

The starting point for any investigation into the figure of the bishop emeritus is a certain and indisputable fact: this is a very recent juridical figure, traces of which are impossible to find in the canonical tradition up to Vatican II. This is due to many reasons, but above all that bond, considered of a spousal nature, between the diocesan/eparchial bishop and his local Church; the consistency with the significant elaboration on the doctrine of the episcopate; and, finally, the norms on ecclesiastical offices that have been notably modified by the codes currently in force.

Said figure of the bishop emeritus has its foundation in n. 21 of the conciliar decree Christus Dominus : Since the pastoral ministry of the bishops entails so much importance and involves grave responsibilities, diocesan bishops, and also those who are juridically equivalent by office, who, in the case of too advanced age or of another serious cause should become less suitable ( minus apti ) to fulfill the duties entailed by their office, are earnestly requested ( enixe rogantur ) to present their resignation of said office either of their own accord or by request of the competent authority. On his part, the competent authority, if he accepts the resignation, will provide whether for the convenient support of the resigned party, or for the recognition of their particular rights.”

The motion to resign from episcopal office for reason of age did not find the common consent of the conciliar Fathers. While some, like Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens, were in favor, others such as Archbishop Mario Ismaele Castellano were opposed. The text of the conciliar decree had a very rough iter . The final draft, approved around the end of October, 1965, appears as a fruit of compromises, and the proposal of a resignation due to a mere fact of a bishop’s personal data having been rejected from it by vote. Therefore, the text cited above does not put a precise age limit for the request to resign, but rather speaks generically of an advanced age empowering one’s full aptitude to carry out the duties of their office. One understands from the above text that the assessment of one’s continuing ministerial abilities, necessarily to be carried on a case by case basis, is left to the discretion of the interested party, and to the power of the competent authority to accept the resignation of such a party.

The motu proprio of Paul VI, Ecclesiae Sanctae , issued on August 6, 1966, not even a year after the decree Christus Dominus , specified well defined limit of 75 years for diocesan/eparchial bishops offering their resignation from their office. This eliminated the provision stated above which must have been very difficult to implement given the problems in objectively determining the circumstances which would necessarily call for resignation. Ecclesiae Sanctae seems to admit implicitly said difficulties at the beginning of the r e gulation in question when it affirms: In order to make the execution of n. 21 of the decree Christus Dominus possible …” The same motu roprio continues thus: all diocesan bishops and others in an office equivalent by law are earnestly requested ( enixe rogantur ) to present of their own accord, no later than 75 years of age, their resignation from office to the competent authority who, having examined the aspects of each individual case, will take the necessary steps. The bishop whose resignation from office is accepted will be able, if he so desires, to keep residence in the same diocese. The diocese should then provide for the convenient and worthy support of the resigning bishop. It is the duty of the territorial episcopal conference to determine, with a general norm, the criteria according to which the dioceses should fulfill this obligation” (I, 11).

The current codes, promulgated in 1983 and in 1990, take up what was prescribed by Ecclesiae Sanctae in the Latin canon 401 and in the Eastern canon 210. They clearly distinguish in two paragraphs between the case of resignation linked to age limits and that linked to other grave causes, while the motu proprio of Paul VI did not even allude to grave causes other than that of very advanced age.

The process of elaboration of said canons, in the work of the coetus de clericis first and then of the coetus de hierarchia , re-presented the text of Ecclesiae Sanctae which hinged on the above-mentioned term enixe rogantur. But in session IV (March 4-7, 1968) of the coetus de hierarchia , a proposal from a consultor to change the verb rogantur to debent was accepted, and so the text read thus: Episcopi diocesani aliique ipsis in iure aequiparati debent renuntiationem Sanctae Sedi exhibere The verb was changed, but without substantially modifying the meaning, at least until the Latin schema of 1980, which stated thus: “renuntiationem ab officio exhibeat.” At this point, an observation of Cardinal Giuseppe Siri was included in the 1981 Relatio : Locutio ‘renuntiationem ab officio exhibeat’ obligationem statuit, dum in can 21 Decr, CD agitur de commendation. The response to it followed: Iam provisum. Dicitur—‘Rogantur ut renuntiationem.’”

4. Origins of the Category of Bishops Emeriti (CIC c. 401 and CCEO c. 210)

The texts of the codes that created the category of bishop emeritus are CIC c. 401 and CCEO c. 210. We include them here in their entirety with the purpose of making some annotations: Can. 401 § 1. A diocesan bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances.

§ 2. A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

“Can. 210 § 1. An eparchial bishop who has completed his seventy-fifth year of age or who, due to ill health or to some other grave reason, has become less able to fulfill his office, is requested to present his resignation from office.

§ 2. This resignation from office by the eparchial bishop is to be presented to the patriarch in the case of an eparchial bishop exercising authority within the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal Church; in other cases, it is presented to the Roman Pontiff; further, if the bishop belongs to a patriarchal Church, the patriarch is to be notified as soon as possible.”

The following observations can be pointed out after a brief examination of the canons:

i) The subject is “[a] diocesan/ eparchial bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age.” There is no longer mention made of “others in an office equivalent by law,” but these are equally included according to can. 381 § 2, which states: Unless it appears otherwise from the nature of the matter or from a prescription of the law, persons who head the other communities of the faithful mentioned in can. 368 are equivalent in law to a diocesan bishop.” These communities of the faithful are the territorial prelature and the territorial abbey, the apostolic vicariate and the apostolic prefecture and likewise the stably erected apostolic administration. Furthermore, CIC c. 411 and CCEO c. 218 extend the regulation for diocesan/eparchial bishops concerning resignation from office to coadjutors and auxiliaries as well. Finally, the same norm concerning resignation on the completion of seventy-five of those cardinals at the head of dicasteries and of the other permanent organisms of the Roman Curia and of Vatican years is made to apply to City. On that basis, the General Rule of the Roman Curia, issued on Feb. 4, 1992 by the Secretary of State, prescribes the above-mentioned age limit for resignation from office to the President Archbishops of dicasteries, to the Secretaries, and to those who are equal to them in duty. This is operative as well for other bishops who carry out their duties in direct dependency on the Holy See, whether in the Curia itself, or in the delegations present in almost every state in the world.

ii) The verb used regarding the present action of one’s resignation is rogatur which means “is requested.” The sense of the word in English leaves the impression that, at the invitation of the code, the interested party may respond even in the negative, omitting the presentation of said resignation. The significance of the verb in Latin is stronger, since it means “to be asked” or “to be solicited” to complete an act that seems owed. In the case of an omission, there would be a need to justify it. One may affirm at least the morally obligatory understanding of the proper meaning of the words in the text and in the context in light of the fact that the codes have struck out the qualification “of their own accord” ( sponte ) used with the verb “requested” whether in Christus Dominus, or in the motu proprio Ecclesiae Sancta. Thi s at least partially avoids the contradictory sense of obligation/non-obligation represented in the first case by the verb ( rogatur ) and in the second case by the adverb ( sponte ). It is also noteworthy that, upon “being requested” to present their resignations, the bishops deal directly with the Supreme Pontiff. In the case that the Pontiff should make an explicit request for such a resignation to one who had not presented it, this would certainly become even a juridical obligation. In any case, it is not out of place here to remember CIC c. 186 and CCEO c. 965: they stipulate that once the age limits defined by the law are reached, the loss of ecclesiastical office takes effect with a written notice from the competent authority.

iii) The adverb “earnestly” ( enixe ) no longer accompanies the verb “requested” as in the conciliar text and the motu proprio of Paul VI. Said adverb instead reappears in paragraph 2 of CIC c. 401 concerning diocesan bishops who, because of infirmity or of another grave cause, should become less suitable for the fulfillment of their office. Since the above-mentioned adverb reinforces the request to retire, the definite condition mentioned in the second paragraph appears more pressing than that of the first and consequently determines a stronger obligation to present resignation from office.

iv) The receiver of the request to resign is “the Supreme Pontiff.” This means the pope insofar as he is titular of the primatial office, not as bishop of Rome, nor as head of the episcopal college, even if these three offices are inseparably united in the same person, i.e. the successor of Peter. Still, these indicate three formally diverse functions and three different areas of competence. It can be further noted that the Latin code, by indicating the Supreme Pontiff as the receiver of the bishop’s resignation, avoids the vagueness of the conciliar decree and of the motu proprio mentioned above, which refer to the “competent authority”. Explicit and specific reference to the pope as the recipient of the resignation of the diocesan bishop from his office seems in keeping with the dignity reserved for the pastor of a diocese as he fulfills an act that concludes the “ missio canonica ” that he had received precisely from the Supreme Pontiff.

v) The acceptance of the resignation from office and the consequent canonical provision on the part of the Supreme Pontiff are not automatic but occur after he has evaluated all the circumstances. The evaluation of the multiple circumstances is not an easy thing. It means starting a process that implies the involvement of other people, even titulars of different offices. It takes a more or less lengthy amount of time to evaluate the circumstances, according to the complexity of the situation. Moreover, the pope can conclude that it is opportune to wait for a certain time before accepting the resignation, without this implying a need to communicate the decision to the interested party. Certainly, the supreme law of salus animarum recommends not leaving the resigning bishop for more than a year in total uncertainty about the period of episcopal ministry he has remaining in a diocese/eparchy. Otherwise, the bishop may develop an attitude against taking responsibility for the more demanding decisions in the administrative and pastoral fields that require the prospect of a certain continuity in the governing of the diocese/eparchy itself.

vi) The loss of office by “resignation” is just one of the ways provided for by the current Codes for the loss of ecclesiastical office, as prescribed by CIC c. 184 § 1, and CCEO c. 965 §1. The former reads: “ Ecclesiastical office is lost when the previously established time has expired, when age limits defined by law are reached, by resignation, transferal, removal and even by privation.” The latter reads: “In addition to other cases prescribed by law, an office is lost by the lapse of a determined time, by reaching the age determined by law, by resignation, by transfer, by removal, and by privation . The norms are new with respect to the previous law, and so it is understood that it influenced the subdivision in paragraphs of CIC c. 401 and of CCEO c. 210, which, on the other hand, did not happen in Christus Dominus and in Ecclesiae Sanctae. In fact, the first paragraph contemplates the case of a bishop’s reaching a certain age, even if such an event would not be sufficient in determining his loss of office, even requiring his resignation. The second paragraph provides instead only for a resignation based on a grave cause such as a sickness that renders his fulfillment of office as pastor of a local Church less suitable. The other cases of losing such an office are the very frequent ones of transferral, the rather rare one of removal, and the improbable one of privation as a punishment, carried out according to norm of the law, for an offense.

5. Rights and Duties of the Bishops Emeriti in CIC and CCEO

The codes consider a wide number of rights and duties of the bishops independent of their specific “ missio canonica .” They are presented here in outline form and according to logical sequence:

5.1 Rights and Duties in Relation to the Pope and to the Other Bishops:

i. Right-duty of assisting the pope and of collaborating with him as titular of the primatial office (CIC c. 334; CCEO c. 4611).

ii. Right-duty of collegially exercising supreme and full power over the universal Church (CIC c. 336; CCEO c. 49) in the manner chosen and promoted by the Roman Pontiff, such as in an ecumenical council or through a united action of the bishops around the world, if this is inaugurated or freely accepted by the Roman Pontiff in the realization of a true collegial act (CIC c. 337; CCEO c. 50).

iii. Right-duty of participating with a deliberative vote in ecumenical councils, the formal assembly of the college of bishops (CIC c. 339 § 1; CCEO c. 52 § 1).

iv. Right-duty of presenting the Holy See with the names of priests judged worthy and suitable for the episcopal duty (CIC c. 377 § 2; CCEO c. 181 § 2).

v. Right-duty of collaborating with their brothers in the episcopate, whether considered individually or collegially, and also as pastors of local Churches. This justifies the participation of bishops emeriti even in the institutional settings of gatherings of local Churches, e.g. local councils, in which, if they have been summoned, they have a deliberative vote (CIC c. 443 § 2).

vi. Right to be elected by episcopal conferences as members of the Synod of Bishops, in conformity with the provision of CIC c. 346 § 1 and of CCEO c. 46 § 2.

5.2. Rights and Duties Connected with the Episcopal Munera

i. The right of preaching the Word of God everywhere (CIC c. 763; CCEO c. 610 § 1).

ii. The duty of a particular apostolic care for the missionary activity of the Church (CIC c. 782 § 2).

iii. The right of administering all the sacraments as the ordinary minister. In particular, every bishop:

– always validly administers Confirmation, for the liceity of which the permission of the diocesan bishop is reasonably presumed (CIC c. 886 § 2);

– has the habitual faculty of hearing the confessions of the faithful everywhere (CIC c. 967 § 1; CCEO c. 722 § 2);

– always validly confers Sacred Orders. He does so licitly with dimissorial letters from whoever has the power to send them. The same applies to episcopal ordination by pontifical mandate (CIC cc. 1012, 1013, 1015; CCEO cc. 744, 745, 747; 748 § 2).

iv. The faculty of remitting latae sententiae penalties not declared and not reserved to the Holy See, in the act of sacramental confession (CIC c. 1355 § 2).

5.3 Rights Connected with their Condition as Such.

i. The right to continue residing in the diocese/eparchy of which they were bishops (CIC c. 402 § 1; CCEO c. 211).

ii. The right to have a private chapel with the prerogatives of an oratory (CIC c. 1227) and to reserve the Eucharist (CIC c. 934 § 1, 2°).

iii. The right to receive adequate and worthy support from the diocese/eparchy served and, secondarily [ in via subordinata ], from the episcopal conference (CIC c. 402, § 2; CCEO c. 211).

vi. Protection against latae sententiae interdict and, in the case of a cleric, even suspension incurred by his attacker (CIC c. 1370 § 2).

v. The right of privileged forum, i.e., of being judged by the Roman Rota in contentious cases (CIC c. 1405 § 3, 1°) and by the Roman Pontiff in penal cases (CIC c. 1405 § 1, 3°; CCEO c. 1060) and, moreover, the right to choose beforehand the place where he will be interrogated for judgment (CIC c. 1558 § 2).

6. Provisions by the Holy See since the Latin and Eastern Codes

The Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, in light of the growing number of bishops who have resigned from office, define the fact as an event of great importance in the life of the Church. This has required that the same congregations issue “ Normae in vita Ecclesiae de episcopis ab officio cessantibus. ” Said Normae , fruit of the collaboration of several dicasteries of the Holy See and approved by the pope, are the following:

i. The bishops emeriti should be consulted on problems of a general nature just as other bishops, in order to utilize their recognized pastoral experience. Therefore, the Holy See is committed to sending the documents of the Holy Father and of the Holy See itself to them in advance, just as is done for those bishops in office, so that they may be informed about problems of the greatest importance.

ii. Some bishops emeriti, those particularly competent in specific field, can be included by the Holy See among the members of the various dicasteries of the Roman Curia as adjunct members , and can even be nominated as consultors of the Curia itself.

iii. The episcopal conferences and hierarchical assemblies can even take the bishops emeriti of particular competence and experience into consideration when choosing members to participate in the synod of bishops.

iv. If the statutes of Episcopal conference do not already make provision for the presence of bishops emeriti with a consultative vote, they should look to involve them in some meetings and in some study commissions when dealing with themes in which the above-mentioned bishops may be particularly competent. In any case, they should make sure that the documents of the conference reach the bishops emeriti.

v. Each diocese/eparchy should keep its own bishop emeritus informed about the initiatives of the diocesan/eparchial community, sending him the diocesan/eparchial bulletin and any other documentation useful for this end.

vi. The local Church that the bishop emeritus has served should be solicitous in whatever regards his economic situation, being generous when giving him his subsidies, within the limits of its own means (See USCB Norms in Appendix).

vii. The universal Church should take care to give special attention to bishops emeriti, so that their sense of loneliness may be alleviated and they do not feel abandoned.

The motu proprio Apostolos Suos , issued by John Paul II on May 21, 1998, on the theological and juridical nature of the episcopal conferences, repeats the plea to the episcopal conferences to better involve the bishops emeriti. On this matter, article 17 reads: it is considered opportune, though, that the statutes of the episcopal conferences make provision for the presence of bishops emeriti with consultative vote. There should be particular care taken to have them participate in some study commissions when these deal with themes in which a bishop emeritus is particularly competent.”

The Congregation for Bishops returns to the same theme with a circular letter to the presidents of the episcopal conferences, dated May 13 and July 21, 1998, with the purpose of giving suggestions for the revision of the conference statutes in response to the motu proprio Apostolos Suos. Said letter states thus in paragraph 11: It would be good for the conferences to value the presence of the bishops emeriti, recognizing their consultative vote at the heart of the episcopal assembly, having them participate in some study commissions, especially taking into account their pastoral experience and their competence.”


The present study was inspired by a personal act of recognition for two pastors who have served the Melkite and Maronite Churches of America with great apostolic spirit, themselves later becoming bishops emeriti. But it is meant to go beyond the limited horizon of two individual eparchies in order to grasp the importance of the figure of the bishop in the Church even when he may have concluded the exercise of the “ missio canonica ” entrusted to him beforehand by the Supreme Pontiff. The juridical profile presented here can be useful for that. From what has been written, we certainly gather signs that express a willingness to value the bishops emeriti, whether on the plane of the universal Church, or on the level of the episcopal conferences, or above all in the workings of the diocese/eparchy.


Guidelines for the Retirement of Bishops (of the USA)

A bishop gives outstanding proof of fraternal charity and collegial affection when in accordance with the venerable example of antiquity he readily and to the best of his ability ( Lumen gentium 23) assists his brother bishops, sympathetically noticing their need and coming to their help (Directory on the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops of May 31, 1973, n. 53).

1. Beginning July 1, 2001, the stipend recommended for bishops in retirement will be a minimum of $ 1,500.00 per month, to be adjusted as the level or retirement support for the priests of the diocese/eparchy is adjusted.

2. In addition to the monthly stipend, it is also recommended that in fraternal charity and solicitude each diocese/eparchy also provide the following:

Additional Basic Benefits

i. Appropriate housing and board

ii. Health and welfare benefits, including major medical and full cost of all medical and hospital care. This includes any applicable coverage for home health care, assisted living facilities or long-term care facilities

iii. An office with secretarial assistance commensurate with the retired bishop’s needs

iv. Suitable funeral and burial

Additional Benefits

i. Transportation including an automobile for personal use

ii. Travel expenses (i.e., transportation, lodging, food, etcetera) to allow the retired bishops to attend:

a. Provincial meetings and workshops

b. Regional meetings, workshops and retreats

c. Meetings of the NCCB

d. Ad limina visits to the Holy See


It is further recommended that the official residence provided by the diocese/eparchy is for the use of the diocesan/eparchial bishop.

If it seems advisable in order to seek some degree of uniformity, the dioceses/eparchies of a given region or province, in a spirit of subsidiarity, should take upon themselves the responsibility to interpret and implement these guidelines, taking into account the local economy. Only in this way can the differing costs in the various regions of the country be factored into the consideration of retirement benefits.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops will review these guidelines again in 2005 to ascertain the continuing validity.

Vol. 2.  No. 2,  December 2011.  P.p. 295-312


Journal of Dharma: Dharmaram Journal of Religions and Philosophies

The latest issue of the Journal of Dharma (Vol.42, No.2), on Dialogue and Society, is out on 15 October 2017. 

Asian Horizons: Dharmaram Journal of Theology

The latest issue of the Asian Horizons (Vol.11, No.2), on 500 Years of Reformation, is out on 01 September 2017.

Iustitia: Dharmaram Journal of Canon Law

The latest issue of the Iustitia (Vol.7, No.2), on the theme Temporal Goods and Church's Mission, is out on 15 September 2017.

Vinayasadhana: Dharmaram Journal of Formative Spirituality

The latest issue of Vinayasadhana (Vol.8, No.2), on The Art of Parenting and Formation, is out, on 20 August 2017.

Herald of the East: Dharmaram Journal of Chavara Studies

The latest issue of Herald of the East (Vol.12, No.2), on Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara: To the Desert and Back, is out on 15 October 2017.

Home  | About Us  | News  | Subscribe  | Get Issues Online  | Forum  | Contact Us  |
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. Site powered by Santhisoft Technologies