In an interview that was broadcast on Wednesday, Pope Francis stated that he has decided to be buried in a Rome basilica rather than in St. Peter’s Basilica with his immediate predecessors.
“Everything is set up here already. The pontiff, who turns 87 this weekend, stated on Mexican broadcaster Televisa’s N+ streaming service, “I want to be buried in Santa Maria Maggiore.”
During the same interview, he disclosed that he intended to travel to Polynesia and his home country of Argentina in addition to visiting Belgium in 2024.
By making this choice, Francis would become the first pope in over a century to be buried outside the Vatican.
Leo XIII was the final person to forgo a tomb in St. Peter’s; he passed away in 1903. His remains are kept in the Rome basilica of St. John the Lateran.
One of the four papal basilicas in Rome is Santa Maria Maggiore, and Francis claimed to have a “special connection” with it.
When he visited Rome prior to becoming pope, he would frequently go there on a Sunday. Ever since his election in 2013, he has prayed there both before and after trips, and he has also prayed there following surgery.
As per the official media outlet, Vatican News, seven popes have already been laid to rest in the basilica.
The pope has experienced a rise in health problems in the past few years, and bronchitis forced him to postpone his trip to the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
He praised his predecessor Benedict XVI for having “the courage” to step down when his health was failing in his Tuesday interview, in which he looked much better.
The German pope resigned in 2013, making history as the first pope to do so since the Middle Ages.
Following a funeral presided over by Francis at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on December 31, 2022, Benedict’s body was interred in the tomb beneath the church.
The body of the late Pope John Paul II was interred in this same tomb until his beatification in 2011.
Francis has stated that he would be willing to follow Benedict’s lead in the event that he was unable to carry out his duties, but he has also stated that popes shouldn’t make resigning from office a “normal thing.”