Pope Francis on Christmas2018
Pope Francis Image Credit: Reuters

Buenos Aires: Pope Francis expects to die in Rome, still the Catholic pontiff, without returning to spend his final days in his native Argentina, according to a new book titled "The Health of Popes."

In an interview granted to Argentine journalist and physician Nelson Castro at the Vatican in February 2019, the pope said he thinks about death, but does not fear it.

Extracts from the book were published Saturday in Argentine daily La Nacion.

Asked how he sees his final days, Francis, who is 84, responded: "I will be pope, either active or emeritus, and in Rome. I will not return to Argentina."

Francis has had to cancel some events in recent months due to a painful problem with sciatica, but is not known to suffer any other major ailments.

The Vatican has always been reticent about a pope's health.

According to the new book, "This is the first time that a pope has discussed his health with the transparency afforded by Francis."

The pontiff, formerly the archbishop of Buenos Aires, says he does not miss his native Argentina, where he was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the son of Italian immigrants.

"No, I do not miss it. I lived there for 76 years. What pains me are its problems" - an allusion to the economic crisis shaking the South American country.

The pope has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Beyond his age, the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics is considered to be high-risk: in 1957, aged 21, he suffered from acute pleurisy and had part of his right lung removed.