Pope Francis spoke with reporters on Monday as he was in flight from Seoul, Korea to the Vatican. During the interview, the 77-year-old pontiff was reportedly in very good spirits during his session in which he answered questions from reporters. For the first time ever, he spoke about his own death and said – somewhat light-heartedly – that he expects to live just two or three years more. He also said that he is considering retiring before then, according to the Washington Times on Tuesday.
Among the things he discussed during his talk were his popularity and his health. His popularity came up in that all were reminded of the Pope’s global popularity during his 5-day visit to South Korea where he was received very well by the public. As far as his health is concerned, he turned serious and said the he sees it as the generosity of the people of God, and he tries to think of his sins, his mistakes – not to become proud. He said the he knows it will last only a short time – two or three years, and then he says he will “be off to the Father’s house.”
Though the Pope, from Argentina, has not spoken publicly about his own death before, someone at the Vatican said that the Pope had previously spoken to people close to him that he thought he only has a few years left on earth. He has also said that, like his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, he would step down by retiring from the papacy if he should ever feel he can no longer adequately perform his duties. He also said it was nearly unheard of that a bishop would retire 60 years ago, but Benedict XVI has opened a door to retirement.
Francis admits to having some nerve problems which require medical treatment. He said that one of these neuroses is that he’s too much of a homebody as he rarely used to leave Argentina. The Pope also said that he is able to handle his popularity more naturally now. At first, however, he admits that his popularity with the masses scared him a little bit, according to the Guardian.