AMERICA/BRAZIL – Bishops emeritus: a new way of being a Bishop, a resource for the mission

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São Paulo – There are currently 162 Bishops emeritus in Brazil. This emerges from data collected by Professor Fernando Altemeyer Junior from the Department of Religious Sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo , which has been updating statistics and names of the Brazilian episcopate for over 20 years. The Code of Canon Law defines as “emeritus” a Bishop who loses “his office because of the age limit or accepted resignation”. The Church sets the age of 75 for submitting the request for resignation to the Pope, who can accept it immediately or postpone it according to pastoral needs.
Although the Bishops emeritus no longer have to exercise their functions of governing the dioceses, they nevertheless continue to take part in pastoral activities and partecipate in the evangelizing mission of the Church. An example of such collaboration is given by Mgr. Francisco Biasin, Bishop Emeritus of Barra do Piraí, Volta Redonda, who in 2019 took over the presidency of the Episcopal Commission for Bishops Emeritus of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, CNBB. In a statement reported by the CNBB portal states that Emeritus is “a gift to the Church, because being an emeritus is an opportunity to reinvent life, it is a new way of being a Bishop”.
The Episcopal Commission for Bishops Emeritus has a particular character that differs from other Episcopal Commissions in that it implements what is laid down in the Code of Canon Law, according to which the Bishops’ Conference “must try to provide adequate and dignified support to the Bishop who resigns, whereby the same diocese in which he served is primarily responsible”. The commission set up by the CNBB in 2012 therefore accompanies the Bishops emeritus and takes care of their support and assistance. In addition to Mgr. Biasin, the Commission is composed of Mgr. Nelson Westrupp, Bishop Emeritus of Santo André, and Mgr. Paulo Antônio de Conto, Bishop Emeritus of Monte. Father João Cândido Neto is an advisory board member for the commission.
Since its creation, the Commission has strengthened the links between Bishops emeritus by organizing meetings, such as the National Meeting of Bishops Emeritus and communication opportunities for bishops who have left the diocesan government.
The last National Meeting of Bishops Emeritus took place in its fifth edition in September 2019 at the Missionary Cultural Center in Brasilia. At the time, Father João Cândido Neto said that the main thing was to show that the Bishops emeritus are not alone: “The CNBB is with them and this is the moment when every Bishop was able to share part of his experience of life and his pastoral experience, because each of them, especially those present here, continues to work in pastoral care”.
Due to the pandemic, the 6th National Meeting, which was supposed to be held in 2020, has been postponed. For this year 2021, the Commission plans a meeting with the bishops emeritus of the regions into which the CNBB is divided. The idea is to virtually bring them together for a moment of reflection and exchange on: “The role of the bishop emeritus in a Synodal Church, in the light of the Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean and the next Synod of Bishops”.