To call this confusing is an understatement.
In a recent speech, the personal secretary of Pope Benedict XXVI, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, said that Benedict and his successor, Pope Francis, are not two popes “in competition” with one another, but represent one “expanded” Petrine Office with “an active member” and a “contemplative member.”
Pope Benedict XVI’s real name is Joseph Ratzinger; Pope Francis’ is Jorge Bergoglio.
In Latin, Petrine Office is munus petrinum. The word “Petrine” is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as:
- Relating to St. Peter, the first pope who was appointed by Christ, or his writings or teachings.
- Relating to the authority of the Pope over the Church, in his role as the successor of St. Peter.
In other words, in this context, “Petrine” means papal, which means that according to Archbishop Gänswein, although Benedict had resigned in 2013, nevertheless he and Francis are an “expanded” papal ministry, whatever that means.
Edward Pentin reports for the RCRegister that on May 20, 2016, speaking at the presentation of a new book on Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Archbishop Georg Gänswein said that Pope Benedict XVI did not abandon the papacy like Pope Celestine V in the 13th century but rather sought to continue his Petrine Office in a more appropriate way given his frailty.
The new book, Oltre la crisi della Chiesa. Il pontificato di Benedetto XVI (Beyond the Crisis of the Church, The Pontificate of Benedict XVI), is by Roberto Regoli.
Archbishop Gänswein’s extraordinary but cryptic remarks have led to speculations of a rift with Pope Francis, as well as the From Rome blog asking if the two rival factions had made a pact during the Conclave of 2005 that elected Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, in which Bergoglio and his “St. Gallen group” consented to Ratzinger’s election on the condition that after a fixed number of years, Pope Benedict XVI would resign, and Bergoglio would then be elected Pope at the next conclave.
See also “The Illegitimate Pope: Election of Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis was contaminated by lobbying in violation of papal laws”.