Benepapists and their false claims about Apostolic Blessings

March 4, 2023 (Steven O’Reilly) – One of the arguments that Benepapists use to claim that Benedict remained pope until his death is that he appears to have given apostolic blessings on a couple or more occasions. Indeed, Ann Barnhardt harps on this point (see HERE). In fact, it is true that in at least a couple of private letters to at least Cardinal Brandmüller and Cardinal Sarah, the late pope emeritus concluded his letters “with my Apostolic Blessing.”

Benepapists claim that only a pope can give an apostolic blessing. This is partly true. The authority to give apostolic blessings does rest in the pope; however, the pope can and does delegate this authority to others.[1] On some occasions a certain solemn rite and formula are prescribed, but for others this is not the case.

By what authority did Benedict give apostolic blessings? It may be the case that Pope Francis delegated the right to his predecessor, the Pope Emeritus Benedict, either with or without certain conditions attached to this right. Per Canon 1167§1, Pope Francis certainly would have had the authority to do so. That he might have done so should not be a surprise. Bishops are accorded the right to give a certain number of apostolic blessings each year, thus it is fitting that a former pope should be granted this privilege to an even greater extent in view of the dignity of his former office.

There is another way in which Benedict might have received the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings. It may be that Benedict, while he was still pope, granted to any future pope emeritus the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings. Obviously, this would apply to himself when he renounced the papacy. Again, that Pope Benedict XVI could do this is granted by Canon 1167§1[2] which reads:

The Apostolic See alone can establish new sacramentals, authentically interpret those already received, or abolish or change any of them.”[3]

As stated above, it is fitting a pope emeritus would be accorded the delegated authority to give apostolic blessings in view of the dignity of his former office.

But, what of Benedict’s use of the possessive “my” when imparting the apostolic blessing, i.e., “with my Apostolic Blessing”? Doesn’t that mean he must be asserting he has the inherent authority to give an apostolic blessing, and thus believes he is still fully pope, or at least pope in some partial way? The answer is a clear “no.”

Per the relevant portion of Canon 1168 which applies to this question, “the minister of sacramentals is a cleric who has been provided with the requisite authority.[4] Thus, Benedict, even as pope emeritus, i.e., a former pope, is the “minister of the sacramental” on the basis of having been “provided the requisite authority” via delegation. Consequently, even in giving the apostolic blessing in an informal setting of a private letter, he is a true “minister of the sacramental.”

Thus, Benedict’s use of the possessive “my” refers to the apostolic blessing being his to give, to whom he chooses to give it, on those occasions he chooses to do so as the true “minister of the sacramental” for which he has been “provided the requisite authority.” He used “my” in this delegated sense of being a true “minister of the sacramental,” and not in the intrinsic, inherent sense that would apply only in the case of a pope. As a final point, to my knowledge Benedict had not given the apostolic blessing in public settings. He did so only in private letters between friends and associates, so the lack of precise formula for the blessing is not surprising.

Whatever the specific arrangement that was made which allowed Benedict as pope emeritus to give apostolic blessings, the point is, there are more mundane explanations available to account for it than to wildly assert Benedict must have still believed himself to be pope in some way — as Dr. Mazza, in his recent book, wants his readers to believe. The real point is that the Benepapists would have to show the canons were violated here.[5] The burden is on the Benepapists and Dr. Mazza in this case to demonstrate there is no other solution but their own. This they have failed to do. So, in summary, if Benedict still gave apostolic blessings after his resignation, that is not a proof that he still believed himself to be pope.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta. He has written apologetic articles, and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms; and of Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI(Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, TruthSocial, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).


[1] Holweck, F. (1907). Apostolic Blessing. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 7, 2022 from New Advent:

[2] In this discussion of apostolic blessings, my thanks again go to Fr. John Rickert, FSSP. In private correspondence with him, it was he who specifically pointed my attention to several canons that were relevant to the debate over Benedict and apostolic blessings. These Canons include 1166, 1167, and 1168.

[3] John P. Beal, et al, eds., New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law,  p. 1402.

[4] Ibid.

[5]  In private correspondence with Fr. John Rickert, FSSP regarding the reply on apostolic blessings in this section, Fr. Rickert made this precise point.

2 thoughts on “Benepapists and their false claims about Apostolic Blessings

    1. VC,

      yes indeed. Fr. Rickert has several great articles on WmBriggs. Four in all. I cited a few of them in my book with his kind permission, as well in a few of my articles, and in my video series. He also suggested a few ideas for my book when drafting it. Brilliant man.

      Please check out the videos on YouTube and give me some thumbs up if you can. Search on Benepapism.

      God bless,



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