Pope Francis marks 10th anniversary with Mass and podcast

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis marked 10 years as head of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday by celebrating mass with cardinals in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel, where he has lived since his election.

The Argentina-born Francis, 86, became the first Latin American pontiff on March 13, 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI, who was the first Pope in six centuries to resign.

“It seems like yesterday,” Pope Francis said in a podcast by Vatican News broadcast on Monday. “Time flies. When you gather up today, it is already tomorrow.”

Vatican News reporter Salvatore Cernuzio said that when the podcast was recorded at Pope Francis’ residence on Sunday, the Pope asked: “What’s a podcast?”

When it was explained to him, he said: “Nice. Let’s do it.”

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has sought to project simplicity into his grand role and never took possession of the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors, saying he preferred to live in a community setting for his “psychological health”.

He invited all the cardinals who are in Rome with him to the mass on Monday.

A persistent knee ailment has forced the Pope to alternate between a cane and a wheelchair, but he appears to be in good overall health.

“You don’t run the church with a knee but with a head,” he reportedly told an aide after he began occasionally using a wheelchair in public for the first time last May.

The Pope has said he will step down if severe health problems prohibit him from running the 1.38 billion-member Roman Catholic Church. But he has also said that he thinks popes should try to reign for life, and that being emeritus pope – as Benedict was – should not become a “fashion”.

Pope Benedict resigned on health grounds, but lived nearly 10 more years after his resignation.

With his 10 years as pontiff, Pope Francis has now reigned longer than the 7½-year average length of the previous 265 papacies. He has visited 60 states and territories, clocking up almost 410,000km.

But he has not returned to his native Argentina, an absence that has prompted much speculation.

He has named about 64 per cent of the so-called cardinal electors who are under 80 and thus eligible to enter a conclave to elect his successor after he dies or resigns.

Pope Francis marks his 10th anniversary, having outlasted conservative opposition within the church that has several times demanded his resignation and which is now at a crossroads, seeking new direction following the deaths of two of its leading figures.

The longest papacy is believed to be that of St Peter the Apostle – regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as the first Pope – which is estimated to have lasted about 35 years.

The longest papacy in recent centuries was that of Pius IX, which lasted more than 31 years between 1846 and 1878. After that comes the papacy of John Paul II, who reigned for more than 26 years between 1978 and 2005.

The shortest is believed to be that of Urban VII, who was Pope for 13 days in 1590. REUTERS