Pope Francis revealed Saturday that after being elected pontiff in 2013, he wrote a resignation later just in case medical problems would cause him not to carry out his duties effectively.
The pope spoke to the Spanish newspaper ABC in his residence in Casa Santa Marta on his 86th birthday, addressing his health issues and church doctrine. Francis said he gave his resignation later to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who served as the Vatican secretary of state at that time. He then added that Cardinal Pietro Parolin likely has the letter now.
When asked whether there should be an official rule when health issues impede the pope’s ability to carry out his duties, he replied, “In practice, there is already a rule.”
Francis had surgery in July 2021 to remove part of his bowel. He has also had increased knee pain, which caused him to use a cane or wheelchair at public events.
“I signed it [the renunciation] and said: ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. Here you have it,'” Francis said.
Francis, in the interview, also played down his use of a wheelchair or cane, saying, “One governs with the head, not the knee.”
ABC reporters also asked Francis why he said he tries to remain faithful to the Catholic Church, yet remains open to dialogue.
Francis replied: “Without horizon, you cannot live. You must have the roots of faith well established, but with a horizon to grow. If not, there would be no freedom. There would be no Christian freedom.”