The Pope (pictured) carries an organ donor card but his body parts will not be made available for transplants on his death because his body belongs to the church, according to the Vatican.
A doctor in Benedict XVI's native Germany had been citing the Pope's endorsement of organ donation to persuade people to follow his example.
The Vatican asked him not to, but he refused. To clear up the confusion, the Pope's personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, sent a letter to the doctor, which he then revealed in a radio interview.
"It's true that the Pope owns an organ donor card . . . but contrary to public opinion, the card . . . became de facto invalid when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected," Mr Gaenswein said.
Vatican officials say that after a Pope dies, his body must be buried intact.