For the first time, Pope Francis has talked about his own mortality, telling reporters he estimates “two or three years” left before his passing.
A reporter embedded with the Pope asked him about his overall popularity on the flight back to the Vatican from Asia. The 77-year-old Pope stated, “I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I’ll be off to the Father’s House,” according to AFP.
Pope Francis said that he has been able to control his popular image “more naturally” although his position at first had “scared me a little.”
The Pope also said he would consider retiring before his death if he felt he was no longer able to carry out his duties, following in the form of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who retired in 2013. “Benedict XVI opened the door,” he said.
He talked about health issues, particularly “some nerve problems” the Pontiff had been battling. “Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate (Argentinian tea) every day,” he said with humor.
While on the flight, the Pope also weighed in on the current hostilities in Iraq and Syria. While the Pope has displayed a record of pacifism when it comes to military action, the Pontiff said that measures must be taken to prevent the Islamic State from carrying out its genocidal campaign. Pope Francis said, “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is illicit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”