Resigning popes are humble, Francis says on visit to central Italy

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Pope Francis, who has often said he could resign if ill health prevents him from leading the Catholic Church, praised on Sunday the humility of one of the few popes in history who he resigned voluntarily rather than rule for life.

L’Aquila, a central Italian city that Francis briefly visited, is the burial place of Celestine V, who resigned as pope in 1294 after just five months to return to life as a hermit, establishing a papal prerogative.

Pope Benedict XVI, who in 2013 became the first pontiff in some 600 years to resign voluntarily, visited L’Aquila four years before resigning. In the past, Francis has also praised Benedict’s courage.

When the Vatican announced Francis’ trip to L’Aquila in June to inaugurate an annual “pardon party,” it fueled speculation that a conjunction of events – including the creation of new cardinals on Saturday and meetings on Monday on the new constitution of the Vatican – could herald an announcement of resignation.

However, in an interview with Reuters last month, the 85-year-old Francis laughed at the idea, saying it had “never occurred to me”, although he left open the possibility that he could resign for health reasons at a later date. distant future.

In the homily of a mass for thousands of people in a central square, Francisco pointed out that in “The Divine Comedy”, Dante Alighieri condemned Celestino for having carried out what the medieval poet called “The great refusal”.

But Francis, who prayed silently at Celestino’s tomb, said that by relinquishing power, Celestino demonstrated the strength that comes from humility.

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“In the eyes of men, the humble are seen as weak and losers, but in reality, they are the true winners because they are the only ones who fully trust in the Lord and know his will,” Francis said.

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