Pope Francis admitted on Saturday that he can no longer travel as he used to due to strained knee ligaments, sayingIt was a “little test” that showed he needed to slow down and possibly retire one day.
Speaking to reporters while returning home from north Nunavut, the 85-year-old Francis confirmed he had not considered resigning but said “the door is open” and there is nothing wrong with the Pope stepping down.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a disaster. You can change the pope,” he said as he sat in a wheelchair on the plane during a 45-minute news conference.
Francis said that while he hasn’t considered quitting yet, he knows he has to at least slow down.
“I think at my age and with these limitations, I should spare (my energy) to be able to serve the Church, or, conversely, I’m considering the possibility of stepping aside,” he said.
Francis was full of questions about the future of his pontificate after the first trip in which he used a wheelchair, walker, and cane to get around, severely limiting his program and his ability to mingle with crowds.
He strained the ligaments in his right knee earlier this year, and continued laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa scheduled for the first week of July.
The Canada trip was tough, and for several moments it was clear that Francis was in pain as he maneuvered up and down the chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energized, despite traveling for a long day to the edge of the North Pole on Friday to apologize once more to the indigenous peoples for the injustices they had suffered in the church-run residential schools.
Francis ruled out having surgery on his knee, saying it wouldn’t necessarily help, noting that “there are still traces” of him undergoing more than six hours of sedation in July 2021 to remove 13 inches of his large intestine.
“I will try to keep taking trips and be close to people because I think it’s a way to serve, to be close. But more than that, I can’t say,” he said on Saturday.
In other comments on the papal plane, Francis agreed to tryIn Canada, a church-run boarding school system amounts to a cultural “genocide”.
Francis said he did not use the term during his trip to Canada because it hadn’t occurred to him. The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission decided in 2015 that the forced removal of Indigenous children from their homes and their placement in church-run boarding schools to accommodate them in Christianity and Canada constituted “genocide.”
“It’s true I didn’t use the word because it didn’t cross my mind, but it called genocide, right?” Francis said. “I apologized, I asked pardon for this act of genocide.”
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