Pope Francis has revealed that he has signed a conditional declaration of resignation if he becomes incapacitated. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC, the Pope reported that he had signed a corresponding document and given it to Tacisio Bertone, Cardinal Secretary of State at the time. Bertone held this office until mid-October 2013.
Pope Francis said he believed Bertone passed the document on to his successor, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. He believes that even Pope Pius XII. (1939-1958) and Paul VI. (1963-1978) had signed conditional declarations of resignation. There had always been speculation about this; Francis is the first pope to take this step publicly.
The then Pope Benedict XVI. and Cardinal Secretary of State Tacisio Bertone (left) on a flight to Cameroon in March 2009, right the then Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi
“By medical circumstances or whatever”
In the interview, however, Francis did not explain which authority must determine the incapacity – for example in the case of mental confusion or a coma – and announce the resignation of the pope. He only said that it was “a prevention due to medical circumstances or whatever”. With these words he handed over the declaration to Bertone.
Bertone was considered a confidant of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who resigned as pontiff at the end of February 2013. “He’s a great man,” Francis said of Benedict, speaking to ABC. He still meets him often. Born in Bavaria, he has a “good sense of humor, is clear, very lively, speaks quietly, but follows the conversation”.
The subject of Francis’ resignation keeps coming up. “The door is open. It’s a completely normal option,” said the Argentine about the end of July on the return flight from his trip to Canada. Before that, he had stated in an interview that if he resigned he wanted to stay in Rome, but not in the Vatican, and that in this case he would be “Bishop Emeritus of Rome”. That would be a different status than that of the Pope Emeritus, which Benedict XVI. Has.
sti/se (dpa, kna)