Pope fears short time left on earth

POPE FRANCIS has addressed the subject of his death for the first time in public at a press conference given to journalists flying back to the Vatican from South Korea.

Light-heartedly considering the prospect of his own mortality, the Pontiff gave himself only two or three years before going on to join the Lord, although he did not rule-out retiring as his predecessor did before him if the job became too strenuous.

The Pope’s intense spirit and energy have won him many supporters, even outside the Catholic faith, and the world is sure to be watching to see if he manages to continue his papal duties at such a fast pace.

When asked by journalists about his international popularity, the Argentine pontiff admitted that his sudden rise to global stardom had frightened him in the past, but that he has began to cope with his fame more naturally.

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, who had a lung removed after an infection suffered as a teenager in Argentina, has shown himself to be remarkably fit for his 77 years. But reports that he has experienced some nerve damage that may require treatment are beginning to emerge.

Retiring his papacy, unthinkable two years ago, would now be a distinct possibility if Pope Francis were to consider himself too ill to continue his duties in the future. The previous pope, Benedict XVI, has set a precedent for future popes to follow if they begin to feel the strains of old age.

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