Pope Francis reflects on retirement: Holy Sprit guides bishops when to step down

Pope Francis shared in a homily last Tuesday that he has reflected on his resignation. He said, however, that the decision to step down must have the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

(Reuters/Vatican)Pope Francis meets Chilean bishops at the Vatican, May 15, 2018.

Speaking before an audience at the Santa Marta Residence in the Vatican, the pope cited St. Paul as an example. The Vatican has not yet released the full text of this homily, but he mentioned a passage in the Scriptures where Paul decided to move to Jerusalem and leave the Church of Ephesus.

"When I read this, I think about myself, because I'm a bishop and I'll have to take my leave," Pope Francis said. "I am thinking of all bishops," he went on. "May the Lord grant all of us the grace to be able to take our leave and step down in this way [like Paul], with that spirit, with that strength, with that love for Jesus Christ and this faith in the Holy Spirit," the pontiff further stated.

His Holiness once said in 2014 that the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to step down showed humility and courage. Pope Benedict was actually the first pope to vacate his post in over 700 years.

Pope Francis hinted that he wouldn't hesitate to follow the same path if that time comes. The 81-year-old leader of the Catholic Church also said that he doesn't expect to have a long papacy. He revealed that he is open to retiring especially if his health prevents him from governing and guiding his flock well.

But the pope might have also been addressing his homily to the 34 Chilean bishops who were recently summoned to the Vatican.

Pope Francis will conduct a three-day session with these bishops in light of the sexual abuse scandal in its clergy, which has broken the credibility of the Catholic Church in the region. Chilean parishioners have also called for the resignation or ouster of the bishops because of the sexual abuse cover-ups.

The Vatican said in a statement that Pope Francis plans to be tough on the erring bishops in this summit.