Pope admits he could resign from papacy and follow in Benedict's footsteps

Benedict became the first pope in 600 years to resign instead of dying in office

Published

Pope Francis has said he will resign from the papacy when he is no longer able to carry on with his job.

Francis did dismiss reports that he was on the verge of stepping down, saying he is on track to visit Canada this month and hopes to be able to go to Moscow and Kyiv as soon as possible after that.

Speaking on retirement, he said: "All of these coincidences made some think that the same 'liturgy' would happen.

"But it never entered my mind. For the moment no, for the moment, no. Really!"

Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Francis said he hopes to visit Moscow soon
Francis said he hopes to visit Moscow soon

But Francis did add that he will resign if failing health made it impossible for him to run the Church – something that had been almost unthinkable before his predecessor Benedict, who became the first pope in 600 years to resign instead of dying in office, stepped back from the papacy.

Asked when he thought that might be, he said: "We don't know. God will say."

Speaking about Benedict, Francis added: “That was the great example of Pope Benedict.

“It was such a very good thing for the Church. He told popes to stop in time.”

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, Francis noted that there have been contact between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip to Moscow.

No pope has ever visited Moscow, and Francis has repeatedly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

When the Vatican first asked about a trip several months ago, Francis said Moscow replied that it was not the right time.

But he hinted that something may now have changed, saying: "I would like to go (to Ukraine), and I wanted to go to Moscow first.

"We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the Russian president gave me a small window to serve the cause of peace.

"And now it is possible, after I come back from Canada, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine.

"The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals."