If and when the time comes, he said, "I will do what the Lord tells me to do, pray and try to find God’s will. But I think that Benedict XVI wasn’t a unique case."
Francis sought to lower expectations about his planned encounter in the Vatican next month with the Israeli and Palestinian presidents, which he announced during the trip. He stressed that they were coming to pray together, not enter into peace mediation.
"We are coming just to pray, then everyone goes home," he said. "But I think prayer is important, praying together."
He said he had originally hoped to arrange the encounter in Jerusalem itself, but that the idea was scrapped because of the enormous logistical problems that would have been involved. Preparations are already under way, he said, noting that a rabbi and Islamic cleric would join him in leading the prayers.
One of the more poignant moments of Francis’ pilgrimage came Monday when he visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and kissed the hands of survivors in a show of humility and respect. Francis said his gesture came spontaneously.
"The gestures that are the most authentic you don’t think about," ahead of time, he said.
Given his respect for Holocaust survivors, Francis was asked what he intended to do about the pending beatification case for Pope Pius XII, the World War II-era pope accused by some Jews of not speaking out enough against the Holocaust. Jewish groups have asked that the case be shelved pending the opening of the archives of his pontificate, or at least until the generation of Holocaust survivors has passed.
Francis has bent the Vatican’s saint-making rules for a half-dozen people so far in his pontificate, waiving the usual second miracle requirement for example to canonize Pope John XXIII last month. Francis, however, offered no such wiggle room for Pius.
"There’s still no miracle," he said. "If there are no miracles, it can’t go forward. It’s blocked there."