Pope Francis has a pre-signed resignation letter stored with a top aide should he be unable to fulfill his duties, he told a Spanish newspaper this weekend.
“I have already signed my resignation,” the pontiff, who turned 86 on Saturday, told ABC, a national daily newspaper in Madrid.
Francis said he signed the document in 2013, when Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was the Vatican’s secretary of state.
“I signed it and told him, ‘In case of impediment for medical reasons or what do I know, here is my resignation. They already have it.’ I don’t know who Cardinal Bertone gave it to, but I gave it to him when he was secretary of state,” he said.
The pope said two of his predecessors, Pope Pius XII and Saint Pope Paul VI, had each signed similar letters in case of permanent impairment.
“This is the first time I have said so,” Francis said.
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In recent years, the pope has been dealing with sciatica and other issues that require him to use a wheelchair. In July 2021, surgeons removed half of his colon due to a narrowing of the sigmoid portion of his large intestine.
The newspaper noted that February 2023 marks 10 years since the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, who became the first pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church to step down in about 600 years.
• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at email@example.com.
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