As new information comes out surrounding the health of Pope Francis, his increasing issues with mobility, and a recently canceled trip fuel rumors that the 85-year-old may be considering an early retirement.
Francis was elected to the papacy in 2013 when his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, stepped down at the age of 85, the first pope to step down since 1415. Recent rumors have suggested that Francis may be following in the footsteps of his predecessor.
The Holy See has made no indication of the Pope’s intention to retire. Most expect Francis to follow in the footsteps of most popes in Catholic history and serve the office until his death. However, rumors of Francis’ resignation are not new and have been in circulation for several months.
The pope has been bound to walking with a cane or traversing via wheelchair since last month, reportedly due to knee pain. His health has been in apparent decline since a surgery he had last July. Francis reportedly has no intention of going through another surgery for his knee and allegedly told bishops in May: “rather than operate, I’ll resign.”
However, the pope has been open about his health issues. In a speech last week, he told an audience, “When we are old, we cannot do the same things we did when we were young: The body has another pace, and we must listen to the body and accept its limits,” he said. “We all have them. I too have to use a walking stick now.”
A week before that, the Vatican announced that a trip the pope had planned in July to Africa would have to be canceled, also due to his declining health.
The rumors around Francis’ retirement have only become louder since he scheduled a meeting of cardinals in August. Some have viewed this as a means by which Francis may be able to get his affairs in order prior to a possible retirement announcement.
Should a retirement occur, Francis would be the second pope in a row to resign from the papacy before his death. Pope Benedict XVI was only in office for eight years before announcing his resignation. Today, he still lives in the Vatican at 95, the oldest person to have ever held the office of pope.
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