What’s behind a false rumor about Pope Francis resigning ‘in the next few hours’?

Hannah Brockhaus   By Hannah Brockhaus for CNA

Pope Francis greets staff at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, July 11, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jul 12, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Rumors started to fly around social media Monday claiming that Pope Francis was “likely” to resign from the papacy “in the next few hours.”

The pope is currently hospitalized after undergoing a surgery July 4 to remove part of his colon, fueling reports that health reasons could have prompted Francis to take this step.

In fact, there is no sign that Pope Francis intends to resign soon. And the confusing reports are probably explained by a mistranslation of Italian into English.

The initial social media reports of a pending papal resignation cited a July 12 post by the popular Italian Catholic news aggregator Il Sismografo.

In the post, the website’s editors commented on a video showing Pope Francis being pushed in a wheelchair in Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Sunday, July 11, as he greeted medical workers and patients.

Some social media commentators quoted an out-of-context and poor English translation of the last sentence of the article.

The final sentence of the post, which was published at 9:22 a.m. Rome time, said, “meanwhile, rumors are coming from Gemelli about the likely discharge of the Pope in the next few hours.”

The Italian sentence used the word “dimissione,” which in context meant “discharge” or “release” from hospital.

The confusing part is that the same Italian word can also be translated to mean “resignation” in English.

Online A.I. translators like Google Translate do not have context for translations and are likely to give the most frequently or commonly used meaning of a word. Thus translating “dimissione” as “resignation.”

On July 5, the Vatican spokesman said that, barring unexpected complications, Pope Francis was expected to spend around seven days in hospital following his surgery, which would make his release to return home on Monday, July 12, a plausible rumor.

But shortly after noon Rome time, and a few hours after the Il Sismografo article was posted, Matteo Bruni said that the pope would be spending “a few more days” in hospital to continue his recovery.

There are several signs that Pope Francis is probably not thinking about resigning, not only in the coming hours, but in the coming days and months.

On Sunday, he was well enough to give his regular Angelus address from a balcony on the 10th floor of Gemelli Hospital, and though he spoke for a little less time than usual, he was able to stand, smile, and wave at the people gathered below.

Francis is also planning several trips in the coming months: first to Hungary and Slovakia in September and then Scotland in November.

While it is unlikely a papal resignation is imminent, that does not mean it is not possible in the future.

Pope Francis has before hinted at the possibility that he might resign, saying in 2015 that the Catholic Church should not have “leaders for life,” and noting in 2014 that Pope Benedict XVI’s 2013 resignation “cleared a path” for future papal resignations.

In a homily during one of his morning Masses in 2018, he asked Catholics to pray for priests, bishops, and the pope, who he said, must learn to leave their posts when it becomes necessary.

Francis noted that St. Paul, who was “compelled by the Holy Spirit” to leave Ephesus and journey to Jerusalem, “shows us the pathway for every bishop when it’s time to take his leave and step down.”

“When I read this, I think about myself,” Pope Francis said, “because I am a bishop and I must take my leave and step down.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About Catholic News Agency 5495 Articles
Catholic News Agency (www.catholicnewsagency.com)


  1. What’s behind the rumor? Wishful thinking, constant prayers for relief, a certain naiveté about a successor. Many Catholics hope for a real Pope, but we will likely get someone even worse than Bergoglio. Better the devil you know…

  2. What is behind the rumor? Simple, the catholic faithful are tired of this Pontificate with all it’s ambiguities, it’s scandals and it’s spiritual abuse,and just want it to end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.