Rumors have been going around since last July that that Pope Francis would soon retire. That was right after his surgery. Ever since, Vatican reporters have said that Rome is on “conclave watch.” And now, after Pope Francis named some new Cardinals, and canceled a trip to Africa, these rumors have achieved escape velocity to the point where TMZ is relaying them.
I have no idea. My instinct has always been that Pope Francis is not the type to resign.
But off the top of my head. Reasons to think he might resign:
(1) His condition. Francis is 85 years old, one of the oldest men ever to hold the See of St. Peter. He came into the with one lung debilitated. He struggles with sciatica. He had colon surgery last year, spurring unconfirmed rumors of cancer. He has serious knee problems, and in May told bishops about it: “”Rather than operate, I’ll resign.”
(2) The choreography. Francis scheduled a visit to L’Aquila for August 28. This will be to open the Jubilee of Forgiveness, which was initiated by Pope Celestine V in 1294. Celestine renounced the papacy that year, and Benedict visited the grave of Celestine before announcing his retirement.
Reasons to think he won’t:
(1) His real inner circle denies it. “He has never thought about it [resigning],” Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga said, dismissing the rumors as “cheap soap opera.”
(2) Benedict still lives. And this makes retirement very awkward. The continued life of Benedict has cast a shade over this papacy. Pope Francis is rumored to dislike the office of “Emeritus” as Pope Benedict designed it in his resignation. The title itself “Pope Emeritus,” the white clothes, and perhaps even the location of residence are very likely to change if Pope Francis were to retire. But it is difficult to inflict such changes on Benedict himself as he still lives. Or to have two different ongoing post-papacy models of retirement running simultaneously.
(3) He’s just not the type, his revolution isn’t complete. There may be real fear that the next conclave isn’t in the bag for the more-progressive wing of the Church. Or that the Synodal model that Francis wants to impose on the Church is not yet built into a sufficient bulwark against a conservative Pope trying to undo or reverse the Francis agenda.
Reporting from National Review.