Pope Francis, who has floated the option of retiring due to declining health, has praised the humility of a 13th-century pope who was one of the few in history to step down rather than rule for life.
The announcement of the head of the Roman Catholic Church’s visit to L’Aquila, in the central Apennines, had fueled speculation about a possible resignation announcement after 20 new cardinals were inaugurated this weekend.
The city was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 2009 that killed 305 people and is still being rebuilt. It is the burial place of Celestine V, who resigned as pope in 1294 after only five months to return to his life as a hermit.
In his homily at a mass for thousands in a town square, Francis noted that in the Divine Comedy, Dante had ridiculed Celestine for cowardice by renouncing his papal role, referring to the decision as “the Great Refusal.”
Francis, who suffers from a painful knee problem and sciatica, arrived at the city’s basilica to pray at Celestine’s grave in a wheelchair and was assisted by assistants. He said Celestine had shown the power of humility by relinquishing his power.
“In the eyes of people, the humble are seen as weak and losers, but in reality they are the real winners because they are the only ones who fully trust the Lord and know His will,” the 85-year-old pope said. said.
“Humility does not consist in devaluing yourself, but rather in that healthy realism that makes us recognize our potential and also our misery,” Francis said. He praised Celestine’s courage because “no logic of power could imprison or guide him”.
Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, who in 2013 became the first pope in about 600 years to voluntarily resign, visited L’Aquila for four years before resigning. In the past, Francis has also praised Benedict’s courage.
Francis has dismissed rumors that he plans to resign himself soon, but also stressed that resignation should be an acceptable option for popes who believe they can no longer adequately manage the world’s more than 1.3 billion Catholics.
He described how the helicopter that flew him to L’Aquila on Sunday had to circle over the city due to dense fog before finally finding an opening, and said it showed people how to take advantage of an “opening” when it presents itself.
Sixteen of the cardinals inaugurated on Saturday would qualify for the conclave of those who would be called upon to elect Francis’s successor – who, under Vatican rules, must be under 80 at the time of the vote – if he step down.
The new cardinals come from all corners of the world, including Brazil, Nigeria, Singapore and East Timor.
The inductions mean that Francis chose 83 of the 132 cardinals qualified to elect a new pope, nearly two-thirds of the total and exactly the percentage needed for a proposed name to pass.