Pope Francis has revealed that he plans to follow in the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI and retire when he is “no longer able to go on”.
Benedict “opened a door and created an institution” when he became the first pope in 600 years to step down last year, Francis said. In a wide-ranging interview with a Spanish newspaper he explained: “As we are living longer, we tend to reach an age where we cannot carry on. I will do the same as him, ask the Lord to send me a sign when I reach that time and tell me what to do and he will certainly tell me.”
Before he was elected Pope, he had already handed in his resignation as archbishop of Buenos Aires and picked out his retirement home: a foundation for elderly priests, he said.
The candid disclosures came during a hard-hitting interview with La Vanguardia newspaper, published in Barcelona, in which Francis also elaborated on his political views.
Pressed on the secession movements across Europe, he warned against independence for Scotland, which will be decided in a referendum in September.
He said: ‘‘The secession of a nation after a period of strong unity has to be treated with great care … Obviously, there are nations with cultures so different that they can’t be tied together … but I ask myself if it is so clear in all cases such as Scotland, [northern Italy's] Padania, Catalonia.”
While this intervention caused a storm in Scotland, Francis then courted further controversy, by launching a defence of Pope Pius XII’s record during the Second World War.
Critics say that Pius XII, who become Pope in 1939, should have done more to publicly condemn the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews. But Francis claimed that when the Vatican archives are opened it “would shed a lot of light”.
“Everything gets thrown at poor Pius XII,” he said. “I sometimes get an existential rash when I see everybody taking it out against the Church and Pius XII.”
Admitting the wartime pope made mistakes, Francis claimed that he did much behind the scenes to save Jews and that if he had spoken out it would have put those Jews in danger.