Pope Francis is planning on retirement.
Resignation is practically unheard of when it comes to the papacy. Usually — or rather, almost always — when a pope is elected, he remains in power for the rest of his life. To put this into perspective, when Pope Benedict XVI retired in 2013, he was the first pope to do so since Pope Gregory XII did it in 1415.
Now, however, it seems that Pope Francis might be interested in making resignation the norm instead of the exception.
In a Spanish-language interview with Mexican broadcaster Televisa that was posted yesterday (see video below), Pope Francis stated that he thought his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, showed “great bravery” when he retired the papacy to become emeritus pope in 2013.
The Argentinian-born Pope Francis was the first man from the Americas to rule the Catholic Church in the religion’s long history. Since being elected pope, Francis has adopted what could be termed a less-formal approach to the position than his predecessors. For example, on the night of his election, Pope Francis took the bus back to the hotel with the other cardinals rather than be driven in the official papal car as is custom.
Pope Francis, 76, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1969, he was ordained as a Catholic Priest. Between 1973 and 1979, Pope Francis — born Jorge Mario Bergoglio — was the Provincial superior of the Society of Jesus in Argentina. In 1998, he became Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001, he was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. When he was voted pope on March 13th, 2013, he picked the name of Pope Francis, after Saint Francis of Assisi.
In the interview, Pope Francis talked about retiring in three or four years, and his desire to once again do things that normal folks do.
“The only thing I would like is be able to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria to eat a pizza.”
The terms of retirement or abdication of the papacy are a bit odd. Benedict XVI has really not been seen in public since his own abdication. When a pope retires, he is expected not to speak out publicly on issues before the church, as confusion would reign in the church as to who has authority. Benedict XVI currently resides in a cloister within the Vatican. He has said that he plans to spend the rest of his life “praying for the church” and writing.
Pope Francis is younger than Benedict and his good health. Those comments about getting a decent pizza without being recognized probably mean that he won’t be staying behind closed doors after his retirement.
What do you think? Is it good for the Catholic Church for a pope to retire after only several years in the Vatican, or would you rather see a pope take — and keep — the position for life? Is it time for the papacy to establish something like term limits on the position?
Sound off in the comments below.
[Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images]