Rumors about a possible resignation of the Pope, is Francis preparing the succession?

  • Certain events, such as an extraordinary summit of cardinals, have contributed to fueling speculation about the Pope’s intentions

  • Francisco, 85, suffers from knee problems that force him to use a wheelchair when he travels

  • He has assured that “changing the Pope would not be a catastrophe” and that the door “is open” but that he intends to continue

Why has speculation about an alleged resignation of the Pope been unleashed in recent times? Is Francis, at 85 years old, in the final stretch of his pontificate? Are you preparing his succession? Health problems that force you to get around in a wheelchair and the programming of certain events have triggered the rumor mill. He himself assured at the end of July that “changing the Pope would not be a catastrophe” and that “the door is open”; although he ruled out – for the time being – transferring it.

The extraordinary meeting of cardinals from around the world held this Tuesday has also contributed to the conjecture. Although its objective was to debate the new Apostolic Constitution, the great reform of Francis’ mandate, the call has come to be analyzed as a rehearsal of a future conclave. The last meeting with all the cardinals was in 2014.

Another gesture that has been considered a “sign” has been the visit that the Pontiff made on Sunday to the tomb of the first pope to leave office. It was Celestine V (in the 13th century) and only five months after being elected he resigned to resume his life as a hermit. Francis has highlighted his “humility”. He is buried in L’Aquila, the Italian town destroyed by an earthquake in 2009.

That same tomb was also visited by Benedict XVI, Francis’s predecessor, and there was also speculation at the time about his intentions. However, it was not until four years later that Ratzinger (who is now 95 years old) handed in his resignation. He did it in 2013 and became the first Pontiff in 600 years to leave office voluntarily. He retired in 2013 due to health problems. “I am a shepherd surrounded by wolves,” he stated.

The Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, and Francis, at the Vatican, on August 27.Vatican Pool / Getty

The Vatican announced last June Francis’ visit to the tomb of Celestine V and the extraordinary meeting of cardinals. And it was then that the lucubrations about the Pope’s purposes were triggered. That month also canceled scheduled summer trips to the Congo and South Sudan.

The day he stated that the time for his resignation could soon come

He did go to Canada in July, where he apologized to the indigenous people for the mistakes made by the Catholic Church and was seen in a wheelchair and with signs of fatigue. The Pontiff has suffered, in recent months, knee problems that have affected his mobility. Upon his return from Canada, he told reporters on the papal plane that The time may soon come when you should consider giving up. and that he would do it if he thought that, due to his health, he would not be able to carry out his work as he should. He then insisted that, for the time being, he intends to continue his duty.

“The door (to retirement) is open, it is a normal option. But until today I have not knocked on that door. I have not felt the need to think about this possibility, but that does not mean that in two days I will not begin to think about it,” he told reporters as reported by the BBC. Regarding his visit to Canada, he stated that the trip “had been intense” and that he did not believe that he could continue traveling at his age “with the same rhythm that he used to do and with the limitation of this knee.” “Do I need to take care of myself a little to continue serving the church or do I need to consider stepping aside“, he added.

Last Saturday, Francisco named 20 new cardinals in the basilica of San Pedro in the Vatican; 16 of them would be eligible for the conclave of those who are called to choose his successor. If he resigned voluntarily, would there be another Pope Emeritus alongside Benedict XVI? It seems not. Francisco would be “bishop emeritus in Rome”, he himself has affirmed.


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