Pope Francis letter of resignation is made public after the pope celebrates his 86th birthday
In an interview released on Sunday, Pope Francis said he drafted a resignation letter shortly after becoming pontiff in 2013 in case he became unable to fulfil his duties due to illness.
Pope Francis told the Spanish ABC daily that he had given the memo to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state at the time. In addition, the Pope stated that he believes Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current No. 2 prelate at the Vatican, now possesses the written instruction.
Francis, who turned 86 on Saturday, was wheelchair-bound for months due to knee problems and required surgery in 2021 to address a bowel constriction. The wheelchair has been replaced by a cane as his primary mode of public transportation.
When asked what happens if the pope becomes incapacitated unexpectedly due to illness or an accident and whether there should be a rule for such a situation, “In practise there is already a rule,” Francis said in response.
Francis said, “I have already signed my renunciation,” revealing that he made the declaration early in his pontificate.
“I signed it and said: ‘If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. Here you have it,'” He was referencing to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who had resigned from his position as secretary of state in October 2013 during the early months of Pope Francis’ presidency.
Now that he’s admitted to writing a resignation letter, the pope joked, “someone will run up to Bertone (saying), ‘Give me that piece of paper.'”
Francis expressed confidence that Bertone would have communicated the message to Parolin, the Italian government’s current secretary of state.
Francis has previously praised Pope Benedict XVI for resigning when he realised that his advanced age made him unfit to carry out his duties as leader of the Catholic Church. When Benedict, who now resides in a monastery on Vatican grounds, resigned, he became the first pontiff to do so in 600 years, and his departure prepared the way for Francis to be elected as the first pope from South America.
Francis downplayed his mobility issues in the interview, adding, “One governs with the head, not the knee.”
When Benedict XVI shocked the world by announcing his resignation to a conference of prelates at the Vatican in February 2013, he did so in accordance with Catholic church law, which requires a papal resignation to be “freely and properly manifested.”