Pope Francis admits he has ‘already signed resignation’

Pope Francis emotional during public prayer

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Pope Francis has admitted he has “already signed” his resignation letter in a weekend interview with a Spanish publication. Speaking to the newspaper ABC, the 86-year-old, who is currently healthy notwithstanding a prevailing knee ailment, said he signed a resignation letter at the beginning of his papacy in case he started suffering severe and permanent health issues. He said he had given the letter to then Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who was a holdover from the previous papacy of Benedict XVI.

In a rare interview, Pope Francis said he signed his resignation as early as 2013. 

He said: “I have already signed my resignation. Tarcisio Bertone was Secretary of State. 

“I signed it and I told him: ‘In case of an impediment for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation’. 

“You have it. I don’t know to whom Cardinal Bertone may have given it, but I gave it to him when he was Secretary of State.” 

The Pope then revealed that it was the first time he had admitted in public that he had already signed his resignation letter. 

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone received the letter during his final stint as the Vatican Secretary of State. 

He left the role six months after Pope Francis was elected to the role of leader of the Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. 

The Pope has often said that he would resign if health issues impaired him from running the Roman Catholic Church, to which 1.3 billion people subscribe. 

He has also suggested that it should be a standard practice for the Pope to resign if health issues become significantly impairing. 

The notion of a Pope resigning from office was virtually unprecedented prior to Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI. 

Before Benedict XVI, now 95, resigned in 2013, attributing the reasons for stepping down to his waning physical and mental health. 

Prior to Benedict XVI, the last pope to resign from the papacy was Gregory XII in 1415, who did so in an effort to unite a factional church. 

There are rumours that the reasons for Benedict XVI’s resignation extend beyond his poor health to accusations of child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, though those allegations were not made against him. 

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Since July, Francis has made three international trips – to Canada, Kazakhstan and Bahrain. 

He plans to visit Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan in early 2023, and for all purposes appears to be in good health. 

But his trips to the African continent were intended to be carried out last July but were subjected to postponement due to a knee problem. He now uses a cane for short walks and a wheelchair for longer indoor distances.

In Sunday’s interview, Francis said he believed Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) had signed similar resignation letters. Both pontiffs, however, died while in office.

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