He surprised analysts when he was elected to succeed Benedict XVI in 2013 at the age of 76, and just five years on, Pope Francis has admitted to pondering his retirement.
Francis spoke about when it might be the right time to ‘take leave’ of his flock during this morning’s homily.
His comment came while reflecting on St. Paul discerning when to leave his flock in the care of others, a decision Francis said all bishops must make.
Pope Francis, flanked by Bishop Angelo De Donatis, delivered a speech during a meeting with the Roman diocese, at the Vatican Basilica of St. John at the Lateran, in Rome, on Monday, May 14
Pope Francis, flanked by Bishop Angelo De Donatis, sits during a meeting with the Roman diocese, at the Vatican Basilica of St. John Lateran, in Rome, Monday
He said: ‘When I read this, I think about myself, because I’m a bishop and I’ll have to take my leave.’
Francis has previously said that retired Pope Benedict XVI ‘opened a door’ to future popes by resigning.
Although the 81-year-old pope has said he does not envisage a long papacy, he has not yet revealed when, or whether, he plans to retire.
Francis may have also been referring to Chilean bishops implicated in a sex abuse cover-up scandal.
He is currently holding a series of closed-door meetings with the Bishops of Chile to formulate a response to the abuse crisis that has rocked the Church in that country.
The discussions are being attended by 31 diocesan and auxiliary bishops and three emeritus bishops, and will continue until May 17.
The Vatican has not released the full text from his homily.
Members of Chile’s bishops conference Luis Fernando Ramos Perez, left, and Juan Ignacio Gonzalez, meet reporters at the Vatican, Monday, May 14, 2108. Chile’s Catholic bishops say they are open to whatever Pope Francis proposes to overhaul the Chilean church devastated by a clergy sex abuse and cover-up scandal, including the removal of bishops, reforms of seminaries and paying financial reparation to victims