ROME—Since Pope Francis followed the first pontiff in the last 600 years who resigned, the question of whether he might resign one day has been raised several times since his election. The latest came on Sunday, when Francis said that at least so far, he’s never thought about it.
Asked by YouTube gurus Dulce Candy and Matthew Patrick if he has ever considered resigning because he finds the demands of his job too much, Francis answered in Spanish, saying, “It never occurred to me to stop being [pope] for the responsibilities.”
“Allow me a confidence,” he added as he addressed the closing of the VI “Scholas Occurrentes” workshop at the Vatican.
“It had never occurred to me that I would be elected pope,” he said. “It was a surprise, but in that moment, God gave me a peace that lasts to this day. This keeps me going. It’s the grace I received.”
“On the other hand, I’m by nature unconscious, so I keep going,” he joked.
Francis’ remarks came as he was speaking off-the-cuff at an event organized by Scholas, a project he began when he was still archbishop of Buenos Aires, and which has become an international network of schools that aims to build a more just society by promoting the “culture of encounter” through sports, technology and culture.
The event included Hollywood A-listers George Clooney, Richard Gere and Salma Hayek.
To be clear, Pope Francis was not asked, and did not answer, if he’d ever consider resigning the papacy, but if he’s considered it to date.
In an interview with Mexican network Televisa in March 2015, Francis said “I have a feeling that my pontificate will be brief. Four or five years, I don’t know, even two or three.”
At the time, he also praised his predecessors’ decision to step down in 2013 as “courageous.”
“Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution,” Francis said at the time.
“Maybe he will be the only one for a long time, maybe he will not be the only one,” he said, adding that in any event, “An institutional door has been opened.”
In 2013, during one of his weekly audiences, Francis said emeritus Pope Benedict XVI had been a great example of what it means to follow one’s conscience through prayer: “He followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God, who spoke to his heart.”
The last pope before Benedict to resign had been Pope Gregory XII, in 1415.