Pope Francis speaks at his general audience Dec. 13, 2023, in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media
Rome Newsroom, Dec 13, 2023 / 10:10 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has said that he wants to be buried in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome because of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In a new interview broadcast on the Mexican television program “N+” on Tuesday night, the pope revealed that he has already made plans for his funeral and burial.
Pope Francis, who turns 87 on Sunday, said that he has been working with the Vatican’s master of ceremonies, Archbishop Diego Ravelli, to simplify the Church’s papal funeral rites.
“We simplified them quite a bit,” Francis told Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki.
He said that a “place is already prepared” for his burial in one of the oldest and most important Marian shrines in the West.
“I want to be buried in St. Mary Major,” Francis said. “Because of my great devotion.”
Pope Francis would be the first pope to be buried outside of the Vatican’s grotto crypt in St. Peter’s Basilica in more than a century. (Pope Leo XIII was buried in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in 1903.)
The last pope to have been buried in St. Mary Major was Clement IX, who died in 1669. He is one of six popes buried in the Marian basilica.
Pope Francis has made more than 100 visits to the Basilica of St. Mary Major since becoming pope. He visits the basilica to venerate the icon known as the “Salus Populi Romani” — “Mary, Protection of the Roman People” — before and after every international trip. Recently, Pope Francis placed a Golden Rose before the icon on Dec. 8.
In the interview, Francis recalled how he would also regularly visit the Marian basilica before he was pope on Sundays when he was in Rome, underlining his strong connection with the basilica.
The interview, taped on Dec. 12 before Pope Francis presided over a Mass to mark the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was the pope’s first interview since slowing down his schedule due to a bout of acute bronchitis.
“I feel good, I feel improved. Sometimes I’m told I’m imprudent because I feel like doing things and moving around. But I guess those are good signs, no? I am quite well,” Francis said.
Pope Francis said that he now faces some “limits” in his ability to travel and that his international trips have to be “rethought.” The pope confirmed that he plans to visit Belgium in 2024 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the country’s two main Catholic universities. He added that trips to somewhere in Polynesia and his native Argentina are also “pending.”
In the interview, Pope Francis said that he has never thought of resigning like his predecessor Benedict XVI but is open to the possibility.
“I ask the Lord to say enough, at some point, but when he wants me to,” he said.
When asked if he has become “more tough” since Benedict XVI’s death, the pope replied: “No” but added that sometimes fathers have to reprimand their children, “but never in the face.”
“Sometimes a reprimand is necessary … I am complicated and sometimes a little impatient, but they put up with me,” the pope added.