On Friday, Pope Francis stood publicly behind a desk to deliver a message of “peace and serenity” after skipping New Year’s masses on Thursday and Friday due to sciatica-related complications. In his speech following the Angelus prayers, the Pope said: “I send you all my best wishes for peace and serenity in the new year.
“The painful events which marked the life of humanity last year, in particular the pandemic, taught us how necessary it is to take an interest in the problems of others and share their concerns.”
Shortly before Christmas two cardinals in the Pope’s circle tested positive for coronavirus, raising the alarm over his safety.
The Pontiff has not always worn a mask in public, something that led to concerns he could easily have contracted the disease.
The 83-year-old became head of the Catholic Church in 2013, following the resignation of Benedict XVI.
However, the Pontiff has been surrounded by speculation regarding the length of his papacy and whether he intended to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps.
Austen Ivereigh, the former Director for Public Affairs of the previous Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, has previously spoken out about Pope Francis’ future.
He said: “I don’t think there’s ever been any doubt that he will resign in 2020.
“He made clear from the beginning that he regarded Pope Benedict’s (XVI) act as a prophetic act of great modesty and he would have absolutely no problem in doing the same.”
“But what I’m hearing now from people close to him is that he’s going to need seven years to achieve his five-year plan and that, of course, would mean staying on until 2020.”
Mr Ivereigh, who wrote The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope, highlighted that Pope Francis does not think he will decide when to leave office.
He said: “He knows he is in the hands of God and so none of this is predictable.
“You can look at it two ways, I mean politically you could say it is quite clever because he’s also signalling to those people who do want to see a change in the church, that there isn’t much time.