Health concerns could force Pope Francis to retire, rumours sweep Rome

The world went without a pope for nearly 600 years before the ailing Benedict XVI stepped down in 2009. The Vatican’s rumor mill is now working overtime to see if the next wait won’t be so long.

Rumours circulated in Rome on Monday that the ailing Pope Francis, 85, was considering stepping down, a move that would make him the second consecutive leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics to leave office while alive. The Argentine-born pope was forced to cancel a long-planned trip, with some saying his agenda for the next few years offered signs that he was considering emulating Benedict.

However, as religious circles and the mass media alike were studying the Pope’s chimney above St. Peter’s Square for clues, two leading experts were quick to dismiss speculation that Francis was going anywhere.

“The Pope has said for nine years that if he feels it is appropriate to retire, he will retire or abdicate, that’s the right word,” George Weigel, a distinguished fellow at the Center for Ethics and Public Policy, said in a statement. Telephone interview. “So everyone should calm down.”

Francis, formerly Cardinal Jose Maria Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, was elected in 2013 following Benedict’s shock resignation, abruptly ending an eight-year papacy as Benedict announced he was too sick to carry out his duties.

According to the Rev. Thomas J. Rees, a Jesuit priest and commentator for the Religious News Service, media speculation about Francis’ health and potential retirement “is a very easy story to write,” and as such keeps coming up. He said Benedict’s resignation also opened the door for continued coverage.

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“The story is going to be told by every pope for the rest of the century,” said Father Rees. “And all you have to do is put the pope’s name and specific ailments. But, you know, as long as he’s sane, as long as He can meet people, have smart conversations, make decisions, make prudent decisions. [Francis] Can be Pope. “

The renewed speculation about the Pope’s health and his near-term future – which official sources have not confirmed or denied – is not without foundation. Francis had part of his lung removed in 1957 for pleurisy and half of his colon in July 2021, and suffers from chronic knee pain.

On June 12, the Pope announced with “great sadness” that he would indefinitely postpone his announced July 2 visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, a move announced by Vatican officials on Friday. Observers said such cancellation notices were unusually brief.

The move, combined with Francis’ recent use of a wheelchair while attending public events, has sparked speculation about his health. On June 13, the Vatican said the pope would not celebrate the annual Eucharistic Dominican Mass, which usually involves the pope’s presence in Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran.

And in August — usually a holiday for the Vatican and across Italy — Francis plans to appoint a new batch of cardinals, meaning his appointees will make up the majority of the successors to the College of Cardinals. .

AFP news agency report Rumors of a possible resignation grew on Sunday, although the report cited experts warning that the move was imminent. The sharp divisions between Catholic conservatives and more liberals and Francis’ moves to shake up the powerful Vatican bureaucracy have only intensified interest in Francis’ plan and how long he can hold on to the job.

American journalist Megyn Kelly added another log to the fire.Ms Kelly Online account On Twitter, an unusual incident in the Vatican she observed during a family trip generated 797,000 views and 4,850 shares online.

“Not long ago at the Vatican, we saw a large number of cardinals, and our tour guide told us it was very unusual,” said Ms. Kelly, a former Fox News and NBC News anchor. “They’re not used to seeing this – it’s not normal. Earlier, when we were in the Sistine Chapel, a priest or bishop, [it’s] I don’t know, it’s very unusual to come in to bless us. what is he doing there? Why did he do this? What does he know? But there’s a lot of buzz here,” she added.

However, Mr Weigel was quick to dismiss Ms Kelly’s speculation.

“Megyn Kelly knows as much about the Vatican as I know about calculus, which is nothing,” he said. “If the Pope’s health shows him that this is necessary in the interests of the Church, he will likely abdicate. But I think we are far from that point.”

According to Rev. John O’Malley, the vast majority of popes serve until their death, and the last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415. history Pope departs for NPR.

Before Gregory, Pope Celestine V resigned in December 1296, a mere six months after being elected. In 2009, the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI made a pilgrimage to Celestine’s tomb and sent his representative papal authority The palladium shawl was placed on the grave. Four years later, Benedict resigned.

Francis plans to visit Celestine’s grave in late August — a move that only adds to the rumor mill.

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