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Pope Francis ‘could retire’ after giving himself ‘two or three more years’ to live

The Pontiff has spoken publically about his mortality for the first time

Pope Francis has suggested he could one day follow in the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI and retire, after joking he probably only has “two or three” more years to live.

His predecessor Emeritus Pope Benedict retired at the age of 85 after an eight-year stint as the head of the Catholic Church. He was the first Pope to do so in almost 600 years.

During a flight back to the Vatican after a five-day trip to South Korea, 77-year-old Francis remarked he may follow suit should he ever reach a point where he cannot adequately perform his duties.

The Pope was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying resigning the papacy was a possibility, “even if it does not appeal to some theologians”.

“Benedict XVI opened a door,” he told reporters.

The Pontiff also joked about the prospect of his own mortality, saying he only expects to live a few more years. “I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud,” he said. “Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I’ll be off to the Father’s House.”

Francis initially fuelled speculation that he could retire in March, when he told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera: “Benedict is the first, and maybe there will be others. We don’t know.”

He has also worked hard previously to dispel perceptions of him “as a kind of superman”, insisting: “The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone. A normal person.”

Earlier this year however, the Religion News Service said Francis “eats work,” and enjoys the hectic pace of his role in the Catholic Church, despite his age and the fact he has to wear orthopaedic shoes to reduce chronic pain in his lower back.

He also underwent surgery to remove part of his lung after doctors discovered three cysts when he was younger.