Pope Francis mentioned on Tuesday he had thought about when he should “take leave” of his flock, given Paul’s decision to leave Ephesus.
Francis made the comment during his morning homily in which he reflected on the apostle, Paul’s, life and said taking leave of one’s flock is a decision all bishops must make at some point, according to The Associated Press. He admonished bishops to pray for the “grace to be able to take our leave and step down” when called to do so by God, according to Crux.
“It’s a decisive move, a move that reaches the heart; it’s also a move that shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down,” Francis said of Paul’s decision to leave the Ephesian church, according to Vatican News.
“When I read this, I think about myself, because I’m a bishop and I’ll have to take my leave and step down,” he added. “I am thinking of all bishops. 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.”
It is unclear whether Francis was hinting at an early retirement — like that of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI — or whether he made the comment in reference to Chilean bishops because of the sex abuse scandal in the Chilean church. (RELATED: Pope Admits Guilt To Sex Abuse Victims: ‘I Was Part Of The Problem’)
Benedict’s decision “cleared a path for later popes to do the same” and that it “should not be considered an exception but an institution,” Francis said in 2014, according to Crux. He has also said there should not be “leaders for life” in the church.
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