At the end of his morning homily Tuesday, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray for priests, bishops, and the pope, who he said, must learn to leave their posts when it becomes necessary.
Preaching May 15 at the Vatican’s Santa Marta Residence, the pope noted that St. Paul, who was “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to leave Ephesus and journey to Jerusalem, “shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down.”
“When I read this, I think about myself,” Pope Francis said, “because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”
“I am thinking of all bishops,” the pope continued. “May the Lord grant all of us the grace to be able to take our leave and step down in this way [like Paul], with that spirit, with that strength, with that love for Jesus Christ and this faith in the Holy Spirit.”
“All pastors must take our leave. There comes a moment where the Lord tells us: go somewhere else, go there, go this way, come to me. And one of the steps a pastor must do is to prepare himself to take good leave, not to leave halfway," he added.
Pastors, he said, must learn to say goodbye, purifying their bonds with the Church “for the cross of Jesus.”
Pope Francis has previously hinted at the possibility that he might resign, saying in 2015 that the Catholic Church should not have “leaders for life,” and noting in 2014 that Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 resignation “cleared a path” for future papal resignations.
During his homily, Francis also said that St. Paul was uncompromising in ministry, saying that service without compromise is essential for pastors wishing to find peace. He said that such uncompromising service is the result of humility, saying that pastors and bishops must remember that they are not “the center of history.”
The pope also praised St. Paul’s dependence on Divine Providence, which he said is “a witness, as well as an announcement and a challenge.”