Francis says he could leave his job as pope after about three more years. The bombshell came in an interview with Mexico's Televisa broadcast Friday, the second anniversary of his election as pope.
Francis told Mexico's Televisa that he believed he would remain pope a bit longer and then resign, as his predecessor had. In February 2013, Benedict XVI became the first pope to resign in almost 600 years.
"I have the feeling that the Lord has put me here for something short, not more," Francis told Televisa in the interview aired on Friday, the second anniversary of his election as pope. "Four or five years," he added. "Or maybe two or three. Well, two have already gone."
Francis said he opposed a fixed retirement age of 80 for popes. As it is, Francis presents his 78 years relatively youthfully. However, he said he preferred to keep his options open - and praised his predecessor for having made retirement an option again. Francis also said he visited and spoke by telephone to Benedict, who lives a monastic life in a former convent inside the Vatican.
"I am in favor of what Benedict did," Francis told Televisa. "I think what Benedict so courageously did was to open the door to the popes emeritus," he added. "Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution."
Francis, who met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February, said he missed the relative anonymity he had enjoyed in his pre-pope days as a bishop in Argentina: "In Buenos Aires, I was an alleycat," he said of his ability to walk the streets undisturbed.
On Friday, Francis also declared a jubilee year running from December 8 to November 20, 2016, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II reforms.
'Injustice of wealth'
In two years, Francis has cracked down on corruption and greed within the church and ordered officials to be more transparent about their finances. In February, the archdiocese of Cologne revealed that it had amassed wealth totaling 3.35 billion euros ($3.5 billion). He has also attempted to weed out clergy who sexually abuse children after years of scandals within the Catholic Church.
Francis told Mexico's Televisa that as the first Latin American pope he felt compelled to speak out on behalf of migrants and the poor because his ancestors had to move from Italy to Argentina to find work. "People are being discarded and forced to seek employment elsewhere," said Francis, who journeyed to the Italian island of Lampedusa after his election to pay tribute to thousands of migrants who have died trying to reach Europe.
Francis, who in the past has called for more regulation of markets, also denounced "the injustice of wealth," declaring it a mortal sin to give someone an unjust salary or for the rich to take advantage of the poor. As a Jesuit, Francis leans toward social justice issues, but he also tows the church line in its opposition to abortion, contraception and homosexuality.
Francis has also taken a stand on environmental issues, calling climate change "mostly" man-made and expressing a desire for negotiators meeting in Paris later this year to take "courageous" decisions.
In February, Francis appointed 20 new cardinals - 15 of whom could have the opportunity to vote on the next pope.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)