Pope Francis is has dismissed the idea that he’s preparing to resign and said he still hopes to be able to visit Russia and Ukraine in the fall.
In a July 2 interview with Reuters, the Catholic leader addressed many topics, including resignation rumours that have been fuelled by his recent health issues and the decision to create new cardinals.
Asked about the Vatican’s controversial, and still unpublished, agreement with China on the appointment of bishops, Francis said, “The agreement is moving well, and I hope that in October it can be renewed.”
Originally signed in 2018 and renewed in 2020, the agreement reportedly allows the pope to approve or veto bishops nominated by the Chinese Communist Party. So far, only six bishops have been appointed, ordained and installed under the agreement; the last was announced in September 2021.
The deal has been criticized by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the retired bishop of Hong Kong, as well as by religious freedom advocates and the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
But Francis said the deal was the best the church could hope for currently. “Diplomacy is like that. When you face a blocked situation, you have to find the possible way, not the ideal way, out of it,” the pope said. “Diplomacy is the art of the possible and of doing things to make the possible become a reality.”
about rumors that he was about to announce his resignation, rumors that found extra fuel when the pope announced in he would create new cardinals in late August — a time when many Romans and Vatican officials take their summer break — and, especially, when he said he would travel Aug. 28 to the Italian city of L’Aquila, the burial place of St. Celestine V, a 13th-century pope who abdicated just a few months after his election.
Before he resigned, Pope Benedict XVI had visited the tomb of St. Celestine.
“All of these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen, but it didn’t enter my head; it never entered my mind,” Francis told Reuters. “For the moment no, really. But when the time comes that I see that I can’t do it [run the church, because of bad health] I will do it [resign].”
“That was the great example of Pope Benedict. It was such a very good thing for the church. He told popes to stop in time,” the pope said. “He is one of the greats, Benedict.”
Asked about rumours that doctors found cancer a year ago when the pope underwent colon surgery, Francis laughed and said: “They didn’t tell me about it. They didn’t tell me.”
But, really, he said, “they explained everything to me well — full stop.”
The cancer rumour, he said, “is court gossip. The court spirit is still there in the Vatican. And if you think about it, the Vatican is the last European court of an absolute monarchy.”
Francis said it was a “painful” decision to postpone his trip to Congo and South Sudan, planned for July 2-7, “but the doctor told me not to do it because I am not able to do it yet. I will do the one to Canada because the doctor told me, ‘With 20 more days you will recover.'”