Pope Francis: Benedict 'Opened the Door' to Pontiffs Retiring

Image: Pope Francis: Benedict 'Opened the Door' to Pontiffs Retiring

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 12:06 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Pope Francis says that the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI due to failing health "opened the door" for future pontiffs to go into retirement as well, including himself.

"I will do what the Lord tells me to do. Pray and try to follow God’s will. Benedict XVI no longer had the strength and honestly, as a man of faith, humble as he is, he took this decision," Francis said, according to The Daily Beast citing a report from the Italian publication La Stampa.

"Seventy years ago, popes emeritus didn’t exist. What will happen with popes emeritus? We need to look at Benedict XVI as an institution, he opened a door, that of the popes emeritus.

"The door is open, whether there will be others, only God knows. I believe that if a bishop of Rome feels he is losing his strength, he must ask himself the same questions Pope Benedict XVI did."

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

The pontiff made his surprising comments on a return flight to Rome from his Middle East trip while traveling with the Vatican press corps.

During the trip, he also said that the Catholic Church might one day allow priests to marry, a practice which is already widely established in Eastern Catholic churches, according to the Catholic News Agency.

"Celibacy is not a dogma of faith, it is a rule of life that I appreciate very much and believe to be a gift for the church," the Pope said, noting that the church has married priests in the Eastern rites. "Not being a dogma of faith, the door is always open."

Francis was addressing the issue of celibacy in the priesthood after 26 women who are dating priests wrote to him, asking for his blessing in allowing them to sleep with their boyfriends despite their vows.

The Pope also revealed that three bishops are being investigated for wrongdoing in cases related to the ongoing child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church in the past decade.

"In Argentina, we call those who receive preferential treatment 'daddy’s boys'," he said, meaning they were exempt from punishment. "There will be no daddy’s boys' in this case. It is a very serious problem."

Francis said that later this year he planned to meet with a group of sex abuse victims, and will celebrate a private Mass with them at the Vatican guest house, where he lives. Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, a member of the newly established Vatican commission on child protection, will attend the ceremonies.

During a 45-minute session with the pool of reporters, the Pope went on to compare sexual abuse of children by priests to black Mass, according to The Daily Beast.

"A priest must guide children towards sainthood. And the child trusts him. But instead, he abuses him or her," he said. "This is very serious. It’s like celebrating a black Mass. Instead of steering him or her toward the sainthood, you create a problem that will stay with him or her for all of his or her life."

Francis: Who Is Pope Francis? Book Reveals the Man

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