POPE Francis has said he used to have weekly sessions with a psychoanalyst to “clarify some things”. The disclosure was made in a book based on 12 in-depth interviews with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton, which will be published next week.

The sessions took place when the 80-year-old was 42 and the leader of the Jesuit order in his native Argentina during the time of the country’s military dictatorship.

Italian newspaper La Stampa, quoting some of the conversations, said Francis went to the analyst’s home. He was quoted as saying: “One day, when she was about to die, she called me. Not to receive the sacraments, since she was Jewish, but for a spiritual dialogue.”

He added: “She was a good person. For six months she helped me a lot.”

In the conversations with the author, Francis speaks highly of the positive influence women have had on his life. “Those whom I have known helped me a lot when I needed to consult with them,” he is quoted as saying.

On his state of mind now, Francis said: “I feel free. Sure, I’m in a cage here at the Vatican, but not spiritually. Nothing makes me afraid.”

In past remarks, the pope has indicated he struggled with how to use authority in his first roles of leadership as a Jesuit.

The Catholic Church used to project a sense of mistrust regarding psychoanalysis but updated Vatican guidelines for use in training future priests say it can be valuable in assessing the psychological health.

Meanwhile, Francis and the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew I, issued a joint appeal for political leaders to “support the consensus of the world” that climate change and other environmental ills have created an ecological crisis that is harming the world’s poorest the most.

They spoke of a “moral decay” and “our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets”.

Their message did not single out individual countries, but Donald Trump’s US administration has announced it is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, which seeks to curb harmful emissions