Pope Francis has a message for his haters: “Still alive. Even though some people wanted me dead.”
Hundreds of Italians cheered for him under a Rome hospital balcony this summer. The pontiff laughed, but not everyone was pleased that he survived colon surgery. It was not secret that some of his enemies held meetings to discuss his health.
“I know that there were even meetings between prelates who thought the pope was in a more serious condition than what was being said,” he added in a meeting this month with Jesuits in Slovakia, after someone asked him how he was doing.
“They were preparing the conclave,” he said, referring to a meeting where a new pope is elected. “Patience! Thank God, I am well.”
At 84 years old, the head of the Roman Catholic Church is back at work after spending 10 days at a hospital in July when doctors removed part of his intestine.
The scheduled operation went smoothly, though it did revive questions about whether Francis would stay in his role as he grows older. Since the early 1800s, only one pope has reached age 86 while still in the chair.
The post-op papal joke about bishops wishing him ill marked a frank acknowledgment of the forces within the church who are at odds with him.
In his comments published on Tuesday by Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, Francis accused his vocal critics of doing “the work of the devil.”
“I personally deserve attacks and insults because I am a sinner, but the Church does not deserve this,” he added.
He admitted they annoyed him at times. The head of Vatican stated that there are “clerics” who can make a mockery of him. I sometimes lose my patience when people make judgements about me without having a genuine dialogue. I can’t do anything there.”
In answering questions about the challenges the church faces — and the divisions within — one detractor Francis mentioned was “a large Catholic television that constantly gossips” about him.
Still, the pontiff said, “I just go forward without entering into their world of ideas and fantasies.”