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Pope Francis reflects on his life and mortality in memoir

POPE Francis, at 87 increasingly weak and wobbly, takes a trip down memory lane and speaks of his hopes for the Roman Catholic Church’s future in a new book reflecting on his life and its intersection with major world events.

“Life – My Story Through History,” a memoir written with Italian journalist Fabio Marchese Ragona and published by HarperCollins, goes on sale on March 19, the 11th anniversary of Francis’ installation as the first Latin American pope.

While offering little that is new, the 230-page book is a breezy, conversational-style read starting with his childhood in Buenos Aires to today.

It is punctuated by events including World War Two, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the 1969 Moon landing, the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, the September 11, 2001 attacks and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013.

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Francis, whose health recently has shown signs of strain with successive bouts of bronchitis, a spate of hospital stays and difficulty walking, repeats that he has no intention of resigning like his predecessor unless “a serious physical impediment were to arise”.

He jokes that while some of his conservative critics “may have hoped” he would have announced a resignation after a hospital stay, there is little or no risk of it because “there are many projects to bring to fruition, God willing”.

He again defends his recent decision to allow blessings for people in same-sex relationships, reiterating that they are not blessings for the union itself but for individuals “who seek the Lord but are rejected or persecuted”.

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The Church, he says, does “not have the power to change the sacraments created by the Lord” and that “this (the blessings) does not mean that the Church is in favour of same-sex marriage”.

HOPING FOR AN EMBRACING CHURCH

Addressing the controversy about the recent ruling, he says: “I imagine a mother Church that embraces and welcomes everyone, even those who feel they are in the wrong and have been judged by us in the past”.

Francis writes that even if some bishops refuse to offer blessings for those in same-sex relationships, as in Africa, “it doesn’t mean that this is the antechamber to schism, because the Church’s doctrine is not brought into question”.

Throughout the book, he leans on historical events as backdrops to make appeals relating to current, sometimes similar, situations.

Pope Francis smiles to a young member of a choir on the day of the weekly general audience, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican, February 28, 2024. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Speaking of World War Two, he writes that still today “Jews continue to be stereotyped and persecuted. This is not Christian; it’s not even human. When will we understand that these are our brothers and sisters?”

In recalling when he first heard of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of the war, he writes: “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is a crime against humanity, against human dignity, and against any possibility of a future in our shared home.”

Reflecting on the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States by Islamists, Francis says, “It is blasphemous to use the name of God to justify slaughter, murder, terrorist attack, the persecution of individuals and entire populations – as some still do. Nobody can invoke the name of the Lord to wreak evil.”

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The pope dismisses as “fantasy, obviously invented”, recent reports by conservative American Catholic media that he would change the rules of conclaves to allow nuns and lay people to enter conclaves to choose future popes.

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On the lighter side, Francis speaks of the controversial “Hand of God” goal by compatriot Diego Maradona in Argentina’s 1986 World Cup soccer quarter-final against England, which the referee allowed as he did not have a clear view showing that Maradona had used his hand.

Years later, when Maradona visited the pope at the Vatican, “I asked him, jokingly, ‘So, which is the guilty hand?'” Francis writes.

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By PHILIP PULLELLA

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