Illustrative photo – Pope Francis in a wheelchair meeting with sisters presented in the audience hall at the Vatican, May 5, 2022.
Rome – The resignation of popes should not become a fashion, the papal office is for life. Pope Francis said this in an interview published by La Stampa today. He confirmed that shortly before taking office, he signed a letter renouncing the office in the event that he could not hold it due to serious health reasons. However, he added that he does not know where the paper is now.
Debates about the resignation of popes return regularly in the Catholic Church after the then Pope Benedict XVI abdicated in February 2013. This happened for the first time since the abdication of Celestine V in 1294.
Benedict's successor, Francis, has repeatedly said that the pope's resignation cannot be ruled out. “However, I absolutely do not mean that the resignation of popes should become, so to speak, a fashion,” Francis said during a recent trip to Africa. “I don't have it (resignation) on the agenda yet. I believe that the papal mission is ad vitam (for life),” added the Pope in an interview authored by his close collaborator Antonio Spataro.
The Pope also returned to to his previous statement that shortly before entering office ten years ago, he signed a letter of abdication, which he gave to the then Vatican number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. “I did this in case I had some health problem that would prevent me from performing my duties and at the same time I would not be conscious enough to resign,” the Pope said. “I don't know where the letter is,” he added.
The statement published today by La Stampa, according to Reuters, is carried in a significantly different tone than the one in which Pope Francis has spoken about the resignation in the past. Returning from a trip to Canada last July, the pope said health problems and old age were leading him to consider slowing down his program or leaving. At the same time, he told Mexican journalists that he would leave if he became a burden and that he would live in Rome, not the Vatican or his native Argentina.