Pope Francis has revealed in an interview published on Sunday that shortly after being elected pontiff in 2013 he wrote a resignation letter in case medical problems impede him from carrying out his duties.

Speaking to the Spanish newspaper ABC, Francis said he gave the note to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who then was the Vatican secretary of state. The pontiff added that he presumes that the prelate currently in that Vatican No. 2 role, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, now has the written instruction.

“I have already signed my resignation. Tarcisio Bertone was Secretary of State. I signed it and I told him: ‘In case of an impediment for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation’,” Francis said. Revealing the letter’s existence for the first time in public, Francis said, “You have it (the letter of resignation). I don’t know to whom Cardinal Bertone may have given it, but I gave it to him when he was Secretary of State,” 

The Pope, who turned 86 on Saturday, seems to be in good health, except for a knee ailment. In 2021 he underwent surgery to repair a bowel narrowing. He had been using a wheelchair to get around due to knee pain. Recently, he has been using a cane instead. Since July, Francis has made trips to Canada, Kazakhstan and Bahrain. 

Both Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) and Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) who died while in office had signed similar resignation letters. 

– with PTI inputs

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