Pope Benedict will have immunity from any attempts to prosecute him in connection to sexual abuse cases around the world, legal experts say of the pope’s decision to resign his position.
Benedict announced that he will spend the remainder of his days living at the Vatican, where he will also be given security measures, Reuters reported.
“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” one Vatican official told Reters.
Pope Benedict announced that he will resign on February 28, the first pope in centuries to leave while alive.
Vatican officials said Benedict‘s decision to remain in the Vatican is a practical one, albeit a bit unprecedented.
“I see a big problem if he would go anywhere else. I’m thinking in terms of his personal security, his safety. We don’t have a secret service that can devote huge resources (like they do) to ex-presidents,” the official said.
With Pope Benedict getting immunity, Vatican officials also would not have to worry about a legal defense. Benedict has been named in lawsuits in the past, Reuters noted:
“In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests.”
For Pope Benedict, immunity from prosecution was not a motivation for his resignation. Church historian Matthew Bunson told USA Today that Benedict saw Pope John Paul II’s declining health in his later years and vowed to step aside before he became unable to perform his duties.