Days ago, just before departing for his trip to Latin America, the Pope said to a crowd at St. Peter's Square, "There exists a great temptation for leaders to believe themselves indispensable, step by step to head towards authoritarianism, to personality cults, and not to allow the communities renewed in the Holy Spirit to thrive."
This great temptation, Pope Francis explains, "renders 'eternal' the position of those who consider themselves indispensable"; however, he notes, the only indispensable person for the Church is the Holy Spirit, and Her only Lord is Jesus Christ. "There are no others."
"A time limit should be established for roles in the Church, which are in reality a form of service," the Holy Father stated, adding that lay leaders should have successors ready because time limits for church leaders would be "opportune."
As Pope Francis would have it, "There are no lifelong leaders in the Church."
This isn't the first time the Holy Father has suggested he won't be around very long, either.
Last August, Pope Francis discussed his own mortality and health, somewhat jokingly giving himself only a matter of years before death. Speaking about his immense popularity worldwide, he said, "I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. 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."
The Pope added that "Benedict XVI opened a door" for retiring from the papacy. He further hinted at having less-than-perfect health, mostly "some nerve problems."
And a few months ago, the Holy Father stated publicly that he had a "somewhat vague sensation" his papacy would be quite short — "Four or five years," he guessed, "I do not know, even two or three." He went on to praise Pope Benedict XVI for his decision to retire for the good of the Church.
In general I think what Benedict so courageously did was to open the door to the Popes Emeritus. Benedict should not be considered an exception, but an institution. Maybe he will be the only one for a long time, maybe he will not be the only one. But an institutional door has been opened. Today the Pope Emeritus is no longer a rarity since a door for him to exist as a figure has been opened.
According to Vatican journalist Edward Pentin, there's likewise "speculation that the Pope has every intention of carrying on, but is raising the possibility of resigning in a bid to hasten his reforms while lulling his opponents into inaction."
But according to some of Pentin's close sources, the Pope's in poor health. "Inside sources say Francis' health is poor and in a worse state than he appears," reports Pentin. "He works tirelessly, takes little exercise, and has brought his doctor and, unusually, an extra medic with him on a grueling eight-day, three-nation visit to his native Latin America this week."