13 March 2015, The Tablet

Francis hints at short papacy – 'maybe just two or three years'

When Pope Francis arrived in Rome for the conclave two years ago he had with him just a small suitcase, and was convinced he would return home to Buenos Aires for Palm Sunday.

In an interview out on Friday, the second anniversary of his election, he described vividly the moment he realised he was being put forward as a candidate.

He told the Mexican broadcaster Televisa: “Really, until that afternoon [when I was elected], nothing. And then something happened, I do not know what. In the room I saw some strange signs, but ... They asked me about my health ... and stuff. And when we came back in the afternoon the cake was already in the oven. In two votes it was all over,” he said.

Francis was praying the rosary – something he revealed he does three times a day – when the conclave elected him as Pope.

He said: “I felt great peace, almost to the point of insentience. The very same when everything was resolved, and for me this was a sign that God wanted it, great peace. From that day to this I have not lost it. It is 'something inside’ it is like a gift. I do not know what happened next. They made stand up. They asked me if I agreed. I said yes. I do not know if they made me swear on something, I forget. I was at peace.”

He said he “had a feeling” that his pontificate would last just four or five years, or even as little as two or three. “It is a somewhat vague sensation,” he admitted. “Maybe it's like the psychology of the gambler who convinces himself he will lose so he won’t be disappointed and if he wins, is happy. I do not know. But I feel that the Lord has placed me here for a short time, and nothing more ... But it is a feeling.”

But he denied absolutely having received 40 votes in the previous conclave in 2005, when he was widely rumoured to have come second.

He said that Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation should be seen as “an institution, not an exception” and that he opened the door for other popes to do the same.

Also in the interview Pope Francis said he missed “roving” from parish to parish, as he had done in Latin America.

"The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognised, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza. That would be nice,” he said.

Pope Francis said he felt particularly responsible for giving a voice to migrants because he came from Latin America. His interest in the topic was “spontaneous” and came from his migrant parents, he clarified.

He looked forward to October’s Synod on the Family but said there were “enormous expectations”. He said that he believed that God wanted it to address issues including support for newly weds, co-habiting couples and those whose marriages had failed.

Meanwhile in Argentina an old schoolfriend of the Pope said that Francis intends to end the ban on Catholic priests from marrying, and reform the prohibition on divorcees who enter new relationships receiving Communion. Oscar Crespo said the Pope told him the ban was “archaic” when he visited him in Rome in October. But the Pope also explained the way he wanted to enact reforms, saying: “Changes are made either with time or with blood, and I choose peace,” the MailOnline reported.

Above: Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St Peter's Square at the Vatican on 11 March. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

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