VATICAN CITY. Francis has already prepared his resignation from the pontificate in the event of a medical impediment. I have already signed my resignation. Tarcisio Bertone was the Secretary of State. I signed them and told him: “In case of impediment for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. You already have them.” I don’t know who Cardinal Bertone gave them to, but I gave them to him when he was secretary of state.’ This is what the Pope affirms in the interview with the Spanish newspaper Abc, conducted by the director Julián Quirós and Javier Martínez-Brocal.
The Pontiff reveals that after being elected in 2013 he signed a letter of resignation to be used in case one day “serious and permanent health problems” made it impossible for him to carry out his duties. Now someone «will go and ask Bertone: “Give me the piece of paper!” (laughs, ed.) He probably gave it to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the new secretary of state. I gave it to Bertone as secretary of state”. In the conversation, the Bishop of Rome announces that within two years a woman will be “at the helm of a dicastery”. On Benedict XVI: he is “a saint, a man of high spirituality”. And on the war in Ukraine: “It is a world conflict, I don’t see an end in the short term”.
After Bergoglio’s appointment as pope, Bertone remained secretary of state for about six months. And the Pontiff has often stated that he would have resigned if his health had no longer allowed him to lead the Church and its 1.3 billion faithful.
Jorge Mario Bergoglio turned 86 yesterday and appears to be in good health apart from the knee problem.
In an interview with Reuters in July, Francis dismissed speculative rumors that his resignation was imminent and repeated his oft-stated position that he might one day resign if failing health made it impossible for him to lead the Church — something he it had been almost unthinkable before Benedict XVI, now 95, resigned in 2013. It was the first papal resignation in six centuries. Since July, Francis has made three international trips – to Canada, Kazakhstan and Bahrain – and plans to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan from January 31 to February 5. 5. he He now uses a cane for short walks and a wheelchair for longer distances. And he reaffirms: «Why did I say no to surgery? He rules himself with his head, not with his knee.’ And now “I’m already walking, the decision not to have surgery turned out to be right”.
In the interview with ABC, Francis states that he believes that Pope Saint Paul VI (1963 – 1978) and Pope Pius XII (1939 – 1958) had signed letters of resignation similar to his. Both pontiffs, however, died while in office.
The Pope also intervenes on the situation in Ukraine. “I don’t see an end in the short term because this is a world war. Let’s not forget that. There are already several hands involved in the war. It’s global. I believe that a war is fought when an empire begins to weaken, and when there are weapons to use, to sell and to test – denounces Pope Francis – it seems to me that there are many interests in between”. On the war in Eastern Europe «I do what I can. They do not listen. What is happening in Ukraine is terrifying. There is enormous cruelty. It’s very serious. And this is what I constantly denounce. Here I receive everyone. Now Volodymir Zelenski has sent me one of his religious advisers for the third time. I am in contact, I receive, I help…».
The turning point: “Within 2 years I will appoint a woman to head a dicastery”
When asked about the appointments of several women to high offices in the Roman Curia, but still none as number one in a dicastery, the Pontiff replies: “It’s true. But there will be. I have one in mind for a dicastery that will become vacant in two years. There is no obstacle to a woman leading a dicastery where a layman can be prefect».
The Pope then addresses the issue of abuses for which, he underlines, no negotiation is possible: «It is very painful, very painful. These are people who have been destroyed by those who should have helped them to mature and grow. This is very tough. Even if it were just one case, it is monstrous that the person who is supposed to lead you to God destroys you along the way. And no negotiation is possible on this,” the Pontiff adds.
Almost ten years after Benedict XVI’s resignation, Pope Francis says that “I visit him often and I am edified by his transparent gaze. He lives in contemplation … he Has a good sense of humour, is lucid, very lively, speaks softly but follows the conversation. I admire his lucidity. He’s a great man.” And on what he appreciates most in his predecessor, Bergoglio defines him as “a saint. He is a man of high spiritual life.’ Does he intend to define the juridical status of pope emeritus? “No. I haven’t touched it at all, nor have I thought of doing so. I have the feeling that the Holy Spirit has no interest in me dealing with these things”. And faced with the reflection that for Benedict, now 95 / years old, it would have been very difficult to govern the Church if he had not presented his resignation, Francis limits himself to pointing out: «The“ futuribles ”are always deceptive, so I won’t enter into these discourses » .
On possible future trips, he explains: «My first choice was to visit the smallest countries in Europe. I haven’t been to any big country in Europe. I went to Strasbourg, and not for France, but to visit the European institutions. Maybe next year I’ll go to Marseilles for the Mediterranean meeting, but it’s not a trip to France». So he replies on the fact that people are beginning to think that his visit to Spain is increasingly difficult.
He then reflects: «Unfortunately, when the priestly identity gets distracted a little, it drifts towards politics. When a priest gets involved in politics, it’s not good… The priest is a pastor. He has to help people make good choices. Accompany them. But don’t be a politician. If you want to get involved in politics, he leaves the priesthood and becomes a politician.’
The Holy See “always seeks to save peoples. Her weapon is dialogue and diplomacy. The Holy See never goes away alone. She is expelled. Always try to save diplomatic relations and to save what can be saved with patience and dialogue.” Thus he answers a question about the voices in Central America asking the Vatican to be more incisive against totalitarian regimes such as in Nicaragua or Venezuela. And on the negative reinterpretation of the story of the discovery of America, the Pope adds: «The hermeneutic for interpreting a historical event must be that of its time, not the current one. It is obvious that people were killed there, it is obvious that there was exploitation, but the Indians also killed each other. The war atmosphere was not exported by the Spaniards. And the conquest belonged to everyone. I distinguish between colonization and conquest. I don’t like to say that Spain simply “conquered”. It’s debatable, all you want, but she colonized. If one reads the directives of the Spanish kings of the time on how their representatives should act, no king of any other country did so. Spain entered the territory, the other imperial countries remained on the coast. Spain did not piracy. It must be taken into account. And behind this there is a mystique. Spain is still the Motherland, which not all countries can say!».
That of Lula, again president of Brazil after being tried and imprisoned, «is a paradigmatic case. The trial process began with fake news in the media, “fake news”, which created an atmosphere that favored his trial. The problem of “fake news” about political and social leaders is very serious. They can destroy a person.” On the entire procedural process, in which in 2021 the Supreme Court annulled all the sentences against Lula because whoever tried him did not have jurisdiction, the Pope declares: «I don’t know how it ended. It doesn’t give the impression that it was a decent process. And in that regard, beware of those who set the mood for any process whatsoever. They do this through the media in such a way as to influence those who have to judge and decide. A trial must be as clean as possible, with first-class courts that have no other interest than to keep justice clean. This case in Brazil is historic, I don’t deal with politics. I’m telling what happened.”
The Pope also speaks of Opus Dei: “The question concerns ‘personal prelatures’. In the scheme of the Curia, Opus Dei depended on the Congregation of Bishops, but in the Code of Canon Law the prelatures are classified differently and the criteria had to be unified. The question was studied and it was said “that the prelature should go to the Congregation of the Clergy”. I did it by talking to them». Furthermore, since «I was in Argentina I have been a friend of Mariano Fazio (Vicar General of Opus Dei). It was a serene and normal decision made by canonists, Opus Dei’s canonists also worked during the process. Some have said: “Finally the Pope has given them to Opus Dei…!” I didn’t give him anything. And others, on the other hand, said: “Ah, the Pope is invading us!” None of this. The measure is a relocation that had to be resolved – he explains – It is not right to exaggerate the thing, either to make them victims, or to make them guilty that they have received a punishment. Please. I am a great friend of Opus Dei, I love the people of Opus Dei very much and they work well in the Church. The good they do is very great.”
The Pope: “I have already signed my resignation to be used in case of illness”. Then the announcement: “Within two years, a woman will head a dicastery”. And on Ratzinger: “A saint, a man of high spirituality”