Pope Francis has revealed in a new interview that he has already signed his letter of resignation to use in case he becomes “disabled”.
Pope Francis made the point in an interview with Spanish news agency ABC, published Sunday, when asked what would happen if a pope were suddenly unable to perform his duties due to health problems or an accident.
Francis said he wrote the letter several years ago and delivered it to then-Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who resigned in 2013.
“I have already signed my resignation. The Secretary of State at the time was Tarcisio Bertone. I signed it and said, ‘If I should be compromised for medical reasons or whatever, here’s my waiver,'” Francis was quoted as saying.
“I don’t know who Cardinal Bertone gave this letter to, but I gave it to him when he was Secretary of State,” Francis said, adding that this was the first time he had spoken publicly about the letter’s existence.
Francis said the previous Popes Paul VI. and Pius XII. would also have written their waivers in the event of permanent impairment.
Francis, 86, appears to be in good health apart from knee problems. He has often been seen using a cane and sometimes uses a wheelchair due to pain in his right knee.
Earlier this year he canceled a trip to the DRC and South Sudan after doctors said he might also have to miss a later trip to Canada unless he agreed to 20 more days of therapy and rest for his right to have knees.
Last year, he underwent surgery to remove part of his colon for diverticulitis, a common condition.
In 2013, Francis’ immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, made the almost unprecedented decision to resign from office. He cited “advanced age” as the reason and shocked the Catholic world.
It was the first time in almost 600 years that a pope had resigned. The last pope to resign before his death was Gregory XII, who resigned in 1415 to end a civil war within the church in which more than one man claimed to be pope.