Rumors have been circling for weeks now regarding whether Pope Francis will resign from office in line with his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Some recent apparent signals from the Holy Father have only helped to fuel those rumors.
Speaking with morning Mass attendees on Tuesday this past week, Pope Francis asked the laity to pray for priests, bishops, and the pope who, he said, must learn “when it’s time to take his leave and step down,” according to LifeSiteNews.
Further adding to his cryptic statement, the Roman Pontiff said that all pastors should have the grace to know when they should step down and not “leave halfway,” as reported by Vatican News. These types of signals have come from Pope Francis in the past. LifeSiteNews has more:
In 2014, he suggested that he would entertain the possibility of resigning if his health failed him, because he would not have the “capacity to govern well.” He suggested he would retire like Pope Benedict did if he felt that he could not “go on.”
Again in 2014 Francis said Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation was a “beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage,” adding that it “cleared a path for later popes to do the same.” Francis also said Benedict’s stepping down “should not be considered an exception, but an institution.”
Then, in 2015, Pope Francis said that the Church should not have “leaders for life” and that there “should be a time limit to positions (in the Church).”
In his homily this week at the Santa Marta papal residence in the Vatican, Pope Francis referenced St. Paul being “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to leave Ephesus and go to Jerusalem and how it “shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down.”
“When I read this, I think about myself,” Francis said, “because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”
Francis called upon bishops to discern when the Holy Spirit has called upon them to step down, also including himself in the mix.
“I am thinking of all bishops,” Francis said. “May the Lord grant all of us the grace to be able to take our leave and step down in this way (as St. Paul did), with that spirit, with that strength, with that love for Jesus Christ and this faith in the Holy Spirit.”
“All pastors must take our leave,” he stated. “There comes a moment where the Lord tells us: go somewhere else, go there, go this way, come to me. And one of the steps a pastor must do is to prepare himself to take good leave, not to leave halfway.”
When Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, it marked the first papal resignation in more than 700 years since Gregory XII stepped down in 1415.