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Pope Francis has no plans to resign from office — though he says some in the Church wish he would.

The pontiff addresses the topic in “Life: My Story Through History,” his forthcoming autobiography. Excerpts from the book, which explores in detail the most significant moments of the 87-year-old’s life up until the present day, were published March 14 by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

In the book, Pope Francis says that despite the criticism and medical issues he has faced during his 11-year pontificate, he considers the Petrine ministry to be “for life” and sees no conditions for resignation, barring serious physical impairment.

“Over the years, perhaps some people have hoped that sooner or later, perhaps after hospitalization, I would make an announcement like this, but there is no such risk: Thanks to the Lord, I enjoy good health, and God willing, there are many projects still to realize.”

The pope says that some are already focusing on who might succeed him, which he says was “only human,” but he also warns that this kind of speculation can be motivated by personal gain or “for profit in the newspapers.”

Addressing criticism leveled against him during his more than 10 years as pontiff, the Argentinian pope acknowledges that he was hurt by those who claim that he is “destroying the papacy.” But he says that he would have to go to the psychologist once a week if he paid attention to all of the criticism, which he suggests is motivated by opposition to his desire to make the Church more pastoral and less monarchical.

The pope also writes that it has “pained” him to see Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013 and lived in the Vatican as pope emeritus before passing away on Dec. 31, 2022, used against him for “ideological and political purposes” by “unscrupulous people who, not having accepted his resignation, have thought of their own gain and their own little garden to cultivate, underestimating the dramatic possibility of a fracture within the Church.”

In the new book, Pope Francis also defends arguably the most divisive move of his papacy: the Vatican’s recent controversial approval of blessings for same-sex couples. The pope said that the promulgation of Fiducia Supplicans confirms that “God loves everyone, especially sinners,” and that if some decide not to implement the guidance, as many bishops and some entire episcopal conferences have, “it does not mean that this is the antechamber of a schism, because the doctrine of the Church is not called into question.”

While the pope says that marriage between people of the same sex is not a possibility, he reiterates his approval of civil unions, stating that “it is right that these people who live the gift of love can have legal coverage like everyone else.”
Twists, turns, and a ‘small crush’

The forthcoming autobiography reveals many details of the pope’s family history, upbringing, and ordained ministry — including several twists and turns and “near misses” along the way.

For instance, the pope shares how his paternal grandparents and father were almost aboard an Italian ship that sank in 1927 en route to Argentina, resulting in the death of 300 emigrants. But the Bergoglio family didn’t have enough money to buy tickets and were providentially spared from the doomed voyage.

Pope Francis also recounts how as a seminarian he developed a “small crush” on a young woman he met at his uncle’s wedding, whom he was “dazzled by.”

“For a week I always had the image of her in my mind and it was difficult for me to pray! Then luckily [thoughts of her] passed, and I dedicated body and soul to my vocation.”

Another near redirection occurred after World War II when the young Jesuit asked to go to Japan as a missionary. But his request was denied due to health concerns.

“If they had sent me to that mission land, my life would have taken a different path; and maybe someone in the Vatican would have been better off now,” the pope quips, referring to his detractors in the Curia.

Francis also recounts some of the highlights of his ordained ministry, such as the 2013 conclave that elected him pope, but also the more difficult stretches, such as his experience during the Argentinian dictatorship of 1976–1983 and his “exile” into rural Argentina by his Jesuit superiors. “It was a period of purification,” the pope says of his years in Cordoba in the 1990s, which came about after mistakes he committed “due to my authoritarian attitude.”

“I was very closed in on myself, a little depressed.”

Important formative figures also factor into Pope Francis’ autobiography, including his paternal grandparents, Giovanni and Rosa, but also his boss while a student in a laboratory: a woman named Esther whom the pope describes as “a true communist.”
Abortion, surrogacy, and defacing art

In “Life: My Story Through History,” Pope Francis also states his views on some of the most pressing issues facing the Church and society.

He reiterates his description of abortion as “a criminal act” akin to hiring “hitmen.”

“No more abortions, please! It is essential to always defend and promote conscientious objection.” The pope also condemns surrogacy as “inhuman,” as it “threatens the dignity of men and women, with children treated as commodities.”

On the topic of the protection of creation, Pope Francis writes that “time is running out” to save the planet but urges activists to not resort to violence or “defacing works of art” in their efforts to push for change.

The pope also emphasizes the need for the Church to follow Christ’s example of going to people on the margins in its care for same-sex-attracted and trans-identifying people, “who are often marginalized within the Church.”

“Make them feel at home, especially those who have received baptism and are to all intents and purposes part of the people of God.”

Pope Francis co-wrote “Life: My Story Through History” with Fabio Marchese Ragona, a Vatican journalist and personal friend. The highly anticipated autobiography, which is being published in the United States and Europe by HarperCollins, is expected to be released in full on March 19.

By Jonathan Liedl

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