Pope planning his funeral

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The religious leader, who has had to reschedule multiple international trips this year, says he wants to simplify Catholic rites before his own passing

Pope Francis is already planning for his funeral by simplifying the rites around papal burials, he has told the Mexican broadcaster N+. The pontiff insisted, however, that he is not intending to resign from his position despite recent ill health.    

The Catholic leader, who turns 87 on Sunday, said it is sensible to make arrangements for his passing, admitting in an interview on Wednesday that “when old age arrives and you reach your limits, you need to prepare yourself.”  

Pope Francis has suffered a number of health issues during his ten years as pontiff. Most recently, he was hospitalized with acute bronchitis, forcing him to cancel several official visits, including to the 28th UN climate summit in Dubai. “Thank God it wasn’t pneumonia,” the pontiff said, alluding to the fact that he had part of one lung removed earlier in life.   

Despite the health concerns, Francis stated he is not planning to step down, declaring that “the pontificate is forever.” He conceded, however, that there is a “possibility” that he could take the same step as his predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, who became the first pontiff in six centuries to resign his position, citing physical and mental ill health.  

“He was a great and humble man who when he realized his limits had the courage to say ‘enough’,” Pope Francis said.  

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Pope Francis greets Swedish teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, April 17, 2019 Give weapons-industry money to the hungry – Pope Francis

The current pontiff plans to be the first pope in more than a century to be buried outside of the Vatican. He is working with staff in the Holy See to simplify the rite of papal funerals, and joked to the interviewer that he would be the one to debut it. 

The last of the pontiff’s antecedents to be buried outside the Vatican was Leo XIII in 1924, when his remains were moved from St. Peter’s Basilica to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. 

Pope Francis’ wish is to be buried at the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the home of the ‘Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus’ icon, painted by Luke the Evangelist. 

“It is my great devotion,” Francis said. “As I always promised the Virgin, and the place is already prepared, I want to be buried in St. Mary Major.” The pontiff added that he prays at the icon before and after every international visit.  

Papal visits rescheduled for next year will see Francis travel to Belgium and Polynesia, as well as his Argentinian homeland, where he was recently invited by newly elected President Javier Milei.

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