Letter from Rome

The question is not 'if' Pope Francis will resign, but 'when' he will actually do so
Letter from Rome

Pope Francis speaks to reporters aboard a plane on the way to Abu Dhabi on Feb. 3. (Photo by Tony Gentile/AFP)

It is now six years since Benedict XVI announced he was resigning from the papacy. He quietly declared his intention in Latin on Feb. 11, 2013 before a small gathering of cardinals in Rome. But it quickly sent shockwaves through the worldwide Church.

Benedict, who had been elected in 2005, later explained that he would officially step down on the following March 28 due to old age and the inability to meet the physical demands of his global office.

He was 85 years old at the time, the fourth-oldest pope in history. He was also the first bishop of Rome in six centuries not to die in office and the first since 1294 to resign freely without being forced by external pressure.

The anniversary of Benedict's resignation announcement, and speculation over whether Pope Francis intends to be the second consecutive Roman Pontiff to retire, came to mind recently when the current pope held a press conference on his flight home from a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

While responding to one reporter's question, Francis said he had received invitations to visit other Arab countries.

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"But there's no time this year," he said. "Let's see if next year I or another Peter [i.e., pope] will go!" he said.

 

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