Pope Francis speaks about his health and whether he’d ever retire

May 21, 2024
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Pope Francis’ predecessor was the first pontiff in about 600 years to retire, but Francis says he has no plans to resign, and is even considering a possible trip to the U.S.

In a historic Vatican City interview with CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell, the 87-year-old leader of the world’s nearly 1.4 billion Catholics said the idea of stepping down has never occurred to him.

“Maybe if the day comes when my health can go no further,” Francis said. “Perhaps because the only infirmity I have is in my knee, and that is getting much better. But it never occurred to me.”

Francis, who took on the papacy in 2013 at the age of 76, now uses a wheelchair, but he described his health as “fine.”

Past health problems for Pope Francis

As one of the oldest popes in the Church’s history, Francis has dealt with several health issues, including the flu and two rounds of intestinal surgery. The pope also only has one full lung

Francis, who is from Argentina, had “a good part” of an infected lung removed when he was younger, according to his authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin.

In “Life: My Story Through History,” a memoir released earlier this year, Francis wrote about hospital stays and medical treatments, saying he knows that people speculate about the next conclave and a new pope.

“Relax. It’s human. There’s nothing shocking about it,” he writes.

Last year, the pope was hospitalized for three days for what the Vatican called bronchitis, but the pope later described it as a case of pneumonia. Pope Francis also had abdominal surgery last June to repair a hernia and remove painful scarring. 

Benedict XVI, the pope who retired in 2013, cited his declining health before stepping down. He died in 2022 at age 95. 

No plans to slow down, with a possible U.S. trip in the future

Pope Francis has kept a busy schedule over the past decade, traveling to more than 60 countries. He has trips scheduled to the Far East and Belgium. 

In September, Francis is scheduled to visit Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Singapore. The Belgium trip is also scheduled for September. 

Francis said he may also visit the United States, “depending on whether I have to go and speak at the United Nations.” He added, “It’s a possibility. I’m not certain.”

O’Donnell asked what he would want to talk about there, and Francis replied, “If I go, it is to talk about peace.”

The possible trip is one of the many topics the pontiff addressed in an hour-long interview with O’Donnell airing Monday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.

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