Ten years after being elected as the new Pope, Francis He walks slowly and most of the time he has to be carried in a wheelchair. The pain in his knee and waist increased considerably and his ailments sparked rumors (for many opponents, the desire) that he resign from office.
The idea of leaving the Papacy, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did 10 years ago, hovers over the Vatican and is such a recurring theme that Francis himself had to respond several times about it.
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But despite the ailments of his age, Francisco appears to be in good and stable general health for a man his age. “You do not lead the Church with one knee, but with your head”, he told an attendee after he began using a wheelchair in public for the first time on May 5, 2022.
In fact, although he confirmed that he had signed a letter of resignation, Jorge Bergoglio -86 years old- continues to believe that the papal ministry is for life. Today, using a cane or a wheelchair, he continues with the same number of public and private hearings as before his knee became a constant problem last year.
He cardenal Kevin Farrellan Irish-American Vatican official, described the pope as setting a great example for older people facing mobility issues.
“He accepts his limitations with great spirit and heart. I think he is an example for all of us. We must not hide the fact that with age comes a decline in our ability to play an active role in life in today’s world,” Farrell said.
The Pope, he said, “also shows us that with his physical limitations and age, he is not going to stop. He sends a message to all of us that we all have to move forward.”
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In January 2021, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Francisco – who had part of a lung removed due to illness when he was young in Argentina – was on a diet to lose 7 or 8 kilos because he suffers from severe back pain caused by the sciatic nerve and underwent physiotherapy continuously .
In July 2021, Francisco underwent surgery for diverticulitisa condition of the colon that is common in the elderly.
The objective of the surgery to which Francisco underwent is to reduce the problems caused by diverticula, which are small hernias in the wall of the colon with a wide spectrum of clinical manifestations including bleeding, inflammation (diverticulitis) or complications associated with it. (obstruction or perforation).
In September 2021, Francisco said that it did not cross his mind to resign, thus denying rumors about it spread by Italian media published those days.
Despite the fatigue, Francisco said that the popes “are for life” and should not be resigned “for fashion”
“I don’t know where they got it last week that I was going to present my resignation!” he complained. “Whenever a pope is sick there is a breeze or a conclave hurricane.”
Despite his energy, since April 2022, the Pope has not been the main celebrant of public masses, which would force him to stand for hours. He delegated that role to a high-ranking cardinal, while he continued to preside over the services and deliver a homily.
Returning from a trip to Canada in July last year, Francis acknowledged that his advanced age and difficulty walking might have ushered in a slower phase of his papacy.
“I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to preserve myself a little to be able to serve the church. Or, alternatively, think about the possibility of stepping back,” said then.
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He then explained that he preferred not to have knee surgery because he did not want a repeat of the long-term negative effects of the anesthesia he suffered after a bowel operation in July 2021.
And one more time, He stated that he had no plans to resign any time soon and that if he finally did, it would be for serious health reasons.as if he were severely disabled.
“It is not a catastrophe: you can change the pope and it is not a problem,” said the pontiff, who nevertheless clarified: “I have not thought about that possibility, but that does not mean that the day after tomorrow I do not think about it,” he added.
Speaking of his knee problems, Francisco lamented: “I don’t think I can continue with the same pace of travel as before.” “I think that at my age, and with these limitations, I have to save my strength a little to be able to serve the Church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside,” he said.
In December 2022, he revealed for the first time in an interview that he signed a letter of resignation nearly a decade ago in case his failing health prevents him from performing his duties.
“I have already signed my resignation in case of medical impediment”said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABCin which he explained that he signed the letter and delivered it in 2013 to the then Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcicio Bertone, before he retired.
“I signed it and told him: ‘In case of impediment for medical reasons or what do I know, here is my resignation. They already have it,'” he explained.
In January of this year, Francis told the Associated Press that he did not intend to resign in the short term and that he was in good health, although he explained that he was suffering again from the problems in the intestine that forced him to operate in 2021.
In addition, he revealed that he suffered a fall that caused a bone fracture that, however, healed without the need for surgery, thanks to therapy carried out with lasers and magnets.
And in the same interview that in case he resigns, he would want to adopt the title of emeritus bishop of Rome and that he would like to go and live in the residence for elderly priests of the diocese, as any other retired priest would do.
In February 2023, the idea of an imminent papal resignation disappeared from the map.
The resignation of a pope must not “become something like a fashion”Francisco considered in an interview in which he assured that his resignation was not “on the agenda at the moment.”
In the same interview, he confirmed that he wrote a letter of resignation two months after being elected, in March 2013: “I did it in case I have a health problem that prevents me from exercising my ministry and I am not fully aware of resigning,” he explained.
“However, this does not mean at all that the resignation of the Popes should become something like a ‘fashion’, something normal,” Francisco clarified. “Benedict [XVI] he had the courage to do it because he did not want to go ahead because of his health. This is not on my agenda at the moment.”
“I think the pope’s ministry is ad vitam. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be like that,” he added, considering that “historical tradition is important.” “If, on the contrary, we listened to the ‘gossip’, then we should change the Pope every six months!” He added, alluding to some critics of his management.
Francis, 86, is now the third-longest-lived pope in the history of Christianity: he is surpassed only by Clement XII, who lived 87 years and 30 days in the 18th century, and Leo XIII, who died in 1903 at the age 93 years and 140 days.
Benedict XVI, who died in December at the age of 95would have become the oldest pope in history if he had not resigned in 2013.
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