I may only have just two or three years to live, says Pope
The Pope has spoken publicly for the first time about his own death, suggesting he only has two to three years to live and may retire early.
Pope Francis (77), made the claims yesterday during a press conference on his return flight from a hectic, five-day visit to South Korea.
When asked how he was coping with his huge popularity, the Pontiff replied: "I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am somebody. Because I know this will last a short time, two or three years, and then to the house of the Father."
He then made a chopping gesture with his hand and whistling noise.
If the Pope is proved right, it would bring the curtain down on a revolutionary papacy during which he has already shaken up - over the course of months since his election last year - Vatican institutions which have remained unchanged for centuries.
On the plane back from Korea, the Pope looked in good form and stood for an hour as he took questions from reporters, but he admitted he was struggling to keep up with his appointments, recalling how he cancelled a visit to a Rome hospital in June.
The Pope's life was more immediately touched by tragedy yesterday when three of his relatives died in a car crash. A fourth was in critical condition after the accident on a provincial highway in Argentina.
The small car carrying a nephew of the Pope along with the man's wife and two young children slammed into the back of a truck. The crash killed the wife and children - one two years old and the other eight months. Emanuel Bergoglio, the 38-year-old son of a brother of Pope Francis, was hospitalised.
He suffered extensive injuries and his condition was not considered stable, said Ignacio Bruno, an assistant director of the hospital in the town of Villa Maria.
The man's 36-year-old wife, Valeria Carmona, and two children, Jose and Antonio, died before reaching the hospital, Bruno said. Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said "the pope was informed about the tragic accident. He is deeply pained."
Earlier the hard-working pontiff revealed the last time he took a holiday outside Buenos Aires was in 1975, but he added he was a dab hand at holidaying from home.
"I change rhythm. I sleep more, I read the things I like. I listen to music. That way I rest. In July and part of August I did that," he said.
Pope Francis admitted he had "some nerve problems", which required treatment. "Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate (an Argentine tea) every day," he joked.
Yesterday, bookmakers Paddy Power made Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson 7/1 favourite to succeed the Pope, followed by Canada's Cardinal Marc Ouellet at 8/1. England's Cardinal Vincent Nicols stood at 20/1. The Pope again supported the decision by Benedict to retire - the first pope to do so in 600 years - and suggested he might do the same.
"Let us think about what he said," the Pope said of Benedict. "I have got old, I do not have the strength. It was a beautiful gesture of nobility, of humility and courage." The Pope pointed out that 70 years ago, bishops rarely retired. ( © Daily Telegraph, London)