Pope Francis spoke with reporters recently and said he would not rule out the possibility of retiring in the manner of Pope Benedict XVI. Aboard the Papal plane returning to Rome from his trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis talked to reporters about money, sex and the possibility of retiring. Following a successful — but tiring — easily the most politically volatile sections on the globe, it is not a surprise that the reporters would ask if he had considered retiring. Pope Francis’ answer: “I won’t rule it out.”
Saying he would do as God instructs him, the Pope said he would pray and seek God’s will in the tatter. According to La Stampa’s Vatican Insider, Pope Francis pointed out that seven decades ago the office of pope emeritus did not exist. Pointing to Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said the door was open for the office of pope emeritus and only God knows if another would join.
The media representatives on the Papal airplane said that Francis answers about eleven questions which the Vatican press corps had submitted in advance. The meeting between the reporters and Francis lasted three-quarters of an hour. While admitting to the contemplation of retiring, Francis did not make any other startling statements as he did last year when he was asked about gays in the priesthood. Francis’ reply to that question then was “Who am I to judge?” A simple, five-word answer that touched off debates in the 1 billion member-strong Catholic Church. Francis did state that the Vatican will now have a “zero tolerance” rule regarding the ongoing sex-abuse scandal involving priests. Francis also told reporters that there were three bishops who were under investigation for the parts they played in the scandal. Francis did not reveal if the three bishops were under investigation for actual sex-abuse or for covering-up for other priests.
Francis went on to say that over the next months he will be holding a Mass and meet with six victims from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Germany. Pointing out that a priest who sexually molests a child not only breaks faith with a child, but betrays the entire church.
Despite Francis’ promise, survivor groups had already started to discount his promise before the plane landed. Joelle Casteis, the western regional director of Survivors Network of Those Abuse by Priests, said that none of the Pope’s pronouncements will change anything. Casteis said that Benedict and John Paul II also met with sexual-abuse survivors and Francis would be the third pope to do so. “Ask yourself,” said Casteis, “can you cite a single positive outcome of any of the meetings?”
Francis also spoke about the continuing problems of financial reform within the Vatican’s financial services. Francis confirmed rumors that the Holy See’s former secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone, is being investigated about the disappearance of approximately $20 million. The money was diverted from the Vatican Bank to a private television company named Lux Vide when Bertone was the second-in-command behind Benedict.
Less than a day after landing in Rome from the Israel trip, the pope was moving again with a surprise visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. On June 1, Francis will lead a large open-air celebration at the Olympic Stadium in Rome and in August, he will head to South Korea.
No once can blame the 77-year old Pope Francis for occasionally thinking about retirement.
By Jerry Nelson