Having a resigned pope and a current pope, within St. Peter at the same time, is a new and wonderful situation for the Church, and this very nice reflection from Chiesa examines it.

An excerpt.

ROME, April 7, 2014 – The more the months go by, the more Benedict XVI’s resignation of the papacy manifests its exceptional novelty.

Other popes before him had resigned: the last was Gregory XII, in 1415. But Joseph Ratzinger was the first to want to be called “pope emeritus” and to continue to wear the white robe “within the precincts of Saint Peter,” bewildering the canonists and bringing fears of the installation of a diarchy of two popes at the summit of the Church:

Notice of Danger: A Church with Two Popes

Of course, Ratzinger no longer has the powers of pontiff of the universal Church: he stripped himself of them by exercising for the last time and in the highest degree precisely his powers as “vicarius Christi.” But neither did he return to being what he was before he was pope. After these two “embodiments” he now has a third that has no precedent in the history of the Church. It is the new “embodiment,” the new state of life that he sees as connected to the commitment “forever” taken on with the acceptance of his election as successor of Peter.

This is what he explained at his last general audience on February 27, 2013, the eve of his resignation of the papacy:

“Allow me to go back once again to 19 April 2005. The real gravity of the decision was also due to the fact that from that moment on I was engaged always and forever by the Lord. Always – anyone who accepts the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and completely to everyone, to the whole Church. In a manner of speaking, the private dimension of his life is completely eliminated. [. . .]

“The ‘always’ is also a ‘for ever’ – there can no longer be a return to the private sphere. My decision to resign the active exercise of the ministry does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences, and so on. I am not abandoning the cross, but remaining in a new way at the side of the crucified Lord. I no longer bear the power of office for the governance of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, in the enclosure of Saint Peter. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be a great example for me in this. He showed us the way for a life which, whether active or passive, is completely given over to the work of God.”

Retrieved April 7, 2014 from http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350758?eng=y