Pope Francis said in an interview published Sunday that he plans to resign if he becomes unable to carry out his duties.
“I’ve already signed my resignation letter … I signed it and said ‘in the case that I am incapacitated for medical reasons or whatever else, here is my resignation,’” the pope told Spanish daily ABC.
Francis, who turned 86 on Saturday, explained that he gave his resignation letter to Tarcisio Bertone when he was the Vatican secretary of state.
Bertone retired from that role – one of the most powerful positions in the Vatican – in October 2013, just seven months after Francis was named pope.
This is not the first time a pope has prepared to resign if they became incapable of serving. According to the interview, Pope Paul VI and Pope Pius XII had drawn up similar plans.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI also became the first pontiff to relinquish office since 1415.
At the time, Benedict said his move to quit was due to old age and declining health.
In the interview, Francis also spoke about Benedict’s state nearly 10 years after his surprise retirement.
“I see him often … He lives in contemplation … he’s cheerful, lucid, very alive. He speaks very softly but can still follow a conversation,” Francis said.
Francis underwent colon surgery last year and has been using a wheelchair and crutch due to knee pain.
However, the pontiff continues to follow a busy schedule that includes world travel.
In early February, Francis plans to travel around the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for just under a week.
He was initially scheduled to go in July but postponed the trip due to issues with his knee.