Pope resignations shouldn’t become a fashion–Francis
VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has said that pontiffs resigning instead of ruling for life should not become a “fashion” in the Roman Catholic Church and happen only in truly exceptional circumstances.
The comments, made in private conversations with fellow Jesuits during his recent trip to Democratic Republic of Congo, were a shift away from previous remarks in which Francis said longer life spans and medical improvements could make retired popes an institution in the Church.
La Stampa newspaper published the comments on Thursday in an article by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, a Rome-based Jesuit priest who attends the meetings and writes about them afterward with the pope’s permission.
On Feb. 2 in Kinshasa, Francis was asked about media reports that he could resign. He repeated a comment first made to a Spanish newspaper in December that several months after his election in 2013 he gave a Vatican official a resignation letter to be used in case one day he suffered a severe medical condition that would leave him permanently unconscious and unable to make decisions.
“This does not, however, in any way mean that popes retiring should become, let’s say, a fashion, a normal thing,” he said. “I believe that the papal ministry should be for life. I don’t see a reason why it should not be this way … historic tradition is important. If instead we listen to gossip, then we would have to change popes every six months,” he said.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI, citing frail physical and mental health, became the first pontiff to resign in 600 years. He lived for nearly 10 more years, and, according to top aides, remained lucid until a few days before his death last Dec. 31.