"I believe Pope’s ministry is for life": Pope Francis in Meeting with Jesuits in DR Congo

Pope Francis met with bishops, priests, and religious in St. Theresa Cathedral in Juba, South Sudan, on Feb. 4, 2023.

Pope Francis addressed once again the question of whether he will resign the papacy in two conversations with Jesuit priests in Africa this month.

“I believe that the pope’s ministry is ‘ad vitam.’ I see no reason why it should not be so,” the pope said Feb. 2 during a private conversation with 82 Jesuits in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Francis met the group of priests at the apostolic nunciature in Kinshasa, where he was staying during his Jan. 31-Feb. 3 visit to the DRC.

The conversations were reported in the Jesuit-run journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

The pope, repeating information he had revealed in a prior interview, said that he signed a resignation letter two months after his election as pope in case he should become incapacitated.


He said he gave the letter to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state at the time, but he does not know now where the letter is.

“However, this does not at all mean that resigning popes should become, let’s say, ‘the fashion,’ a normal thing. Benedict had the courage to do it because he did not feel like going on because of his health. I for the moment do not have that on my agenda,” he said.

“Think that the ministry of the great patriarchs is always for life,” he added. “And the historical tradition is important.”

Pope Francis also said that if the Church listened to the gossip it should change popes every six months.

The pope again addressed the question of his possible resignation in a meeting with Jesuit priests in South Sudan, which he visited Feb. 3-5.

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The encounter with 11 Jesuits serving in the east African country took place on Feb. 4 in Juba.

Francis told the group that “no, [resignation] didn’t cross my mind.”

He mentioned again the letter he signed in case his health should deteriorate to a point he could not resign and pointed to the resignation letter Venerable Pope Pius XII prepared in case he should be kidnapped by Hitler.

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.