On his recent flight back to Rome from Korea, Pope Francis chatted for about an hour with the reporters traveling with him. In response to a question about his popularity, he mentioned that he kept things in perspective by remembering that he would probably be around only for two or three more years. As he put it, “I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father,” and in response to an earlier question he suggested that he might follow the example of Pope Emeritus Benedict and retire at some point. You can read the full text of the press conference here.
As I read the interview, especially about the pope’s thoughts about his own future “on the job”, so to speak, I was reminded of St. John XXIII, whose own reign was less than five years in length. He once remarked about his relationship with the Roman Curia that, because of his advanced age, no one expected him to live very long. He continued that were certainly right about that, but their mistake was that they thought he wouldn’t do anything while he was there!
Despite his short papacy, St. John inaugurated a sea change both within the Church as well as how the Church relates to the world. Not only did he convoke the Second Vatican Council, he also initiated the process of a complete revision of the Code of Canon Law. Some popes with much longer reigns accomplished far less!
Let’s see what Pope Francis has in mind. . . .