The resignation of a pope should not become the norm within the Catholic Church, and that prospect is not “on my agenda”, Pope Francis said in an interview published Thursday.
Francis acknowledged writing a resignation letter two months after becoming pope in 2013 in case of future health problems that would prevent him from carrying out his work.
“However, this does not at all mean that resigning popes should become, let’s say, a ‘fashion’, a normal thing,” said Francis, 86, in an interview in the magazine Civilta Cattolica.
The pope made the comments on February 2 during a question and answer session with 82 Jesuits as part of his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Francis cited the surprise resignation in 2013 of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who “had the courage to do it because he did not feel up to continuing due to his health”.
“I, for the moment, do not have that on my agenda. I believe that the pope’s ministry is ‘ad vitam’” (Latin for ‘for life’), Francis said, adding that “historical tradition” was important.
Francis has previously acknowledged that he could step down should his health require it.
His recent health problems, including chronic knee pain that has forced him to rely on a wheelchair, have only fuelled speculation he may resign at some point.
Francis made reference to that speculation in the interview.
“If, on the other hand, we are listening to the ‘chatter,’ well, then we should change popes every six months!” he said.