Pope Francis signed his resignation letter in 2013 for health reasons
Pope Francis, in a new interview published on Sunday, revealed that after his election in 2013 he signed a letter of resignation to be used if one day serious and lasting health problems made it impossible to hold office.
Francis, who turned 86 on Saturday and appears to be in good health except for a knee problem, spoke in an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC.
Francis said he delivered the letter to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was a vestige of Benedict XVI’s earlier papacy. Bertone remained in the position for approximately six months after Francis was elected on March 13, 2013.
Francis has often said he would resign if his health prevented him from leading the 1.3 billion-member Roman Catholic Church.
Francis was asked if he thought an official norm should be established for cases where health problems or an accident disabled a pope.
“I have already signed my resignation. Tarcisio Bertone was Secretary of State. I signed it and told him, ‘In case of medical disability or whatever, here’s my resignation,'” Francis was quoted as saying.
“You have it. I don’t know who Cardinal Bertone might have given it to, but I gave it to him when he was Secretary of State,” Francis said, adding that this was the first time he was publicly revealing it.
In an interview with Reuters in July, Francis dismissed speculative reports that his retirement was imminent and reiterated his oft-stated position that he might one day step down if health problems made it impossible for him to lead the church – something that has been done before Benedict XVI had been almost unthinkable. now 95, resigned in 2013. It was the first papal resignation in six centuries.
Since July, Francis has made three international trips – to Canada, Kazakhstan and Bahrain – and plans to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan from January 31 to February 2. 5.
He should have made this trip last July but knee problems forced a postponement. He now uses a cane for short walks and a wheelchair for longer distances indoors.
In the ABC interview, Francis said he believed Pope Paul VI. (1963-1978) and Pope Pius XII. (1939-1958) would have signed similar letters of resignation. However, both popes died during their tenure.