In an interview on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, Pope Francis revealed that he had written a resignation letter in 2013 after being elected. Pope Francis, who recently celebrated his 86th birthday, told the Spanish newspaper ABC that he gave the note to the (at the time) Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, in case any medical issues would obstruct him from carrying out his duties of the Catholic Church.
The pontiff underwent surgery in 2021 to repair a bowel narrowing; he also has been using a wheelchair and a cane to move around due to knee pain, per NPR. So, is Pope Francis stepping down from the Church? Here's what the pontiff said about his resignation.
Did Pope Francis resign?
When asked what happens if the pope is unable to perform his duties due to an illness or being incapacitated, Pope Francis told the outlet that "there is already a rule" in place.
"I have already signed my renunciation," he said. "The Secretary of State at the time was Tarcisio Bertone. I signed it and said, 'If I should become impaired for medical reasons or whatever, here is my resignation. Here you have it.'"
“I don’t know who Cardinal Bertone has given that letter to, but I handed it to him when he was the Secretary of State,” he continued. According to CNN, Francis also said that previous pontiffs Paul VI and Pious XII had also written resignation letters in case they were unable to perform their duties due to permanent impairment.
Pope Benedict XVI, Francis's predecessor, shocked the world as the first pope to step down from the position in nearly 600 years. Benedict resigned as pontiff citing "advanced age" as the reason for his resignation.
At this time, Francis is not stepping down as the pope.