ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) — Pope Francis admitted on Saturday that he could no longer travel as he used to because of strained knee ligaments, saying his one week canadian pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed he needed to slow down and possibly retire one day.
Speaking to reporters as he returned home from northern Nunavut, 85-year-old Francis stressed that he hadn’t thought about quitting but said “the door is open” and that there was nothing wrong with a pope resigns.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a disaster. You can change the pope,” he said as he sat in an airplane wheelchair during a 45-minute press conference.
Francis said that while he hadn’t considered quitting until now, he realizes he needs to at least slow down.
“I think at my age and with these limitations, I need to save (my energy) so I can serve the church, or conversely, consider whether to retire,” he said.
Francis was peppered with 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 schedule and his ability to mingle with crowds.
He strained 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 trip to Canada was difficult and featured several moments where Francis was clearly in pain as he maneuvered himself up and down chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic, despite a long day of travel to arctic edge Friday to once again apologize to Indigenous peoples for the injustices they suffered in Church-run residential schools in Canada.
Francis ruled out having knee surgery, saying it wouldn’t necessarily help and noting “there are still traces” of the effects of having undergone more than six hours of anesthesia in July 2021 to remove 33 centimeters ( 13 inches) from its large intestine.
“I’m going to try to continue to travel and be close to people because I think it’s a way of being of service, of being close. But more than that I can’t say,” he said on Saturday.
In other comments aboard the papal plane, Francis:
— Agreed that the attempt to eliminate Indigenous culture in Canada through a church-run residential school system amounted to cultural “genocide”. Francis said he didn’t use the term on his trip to Canada because it didn’t occur to him. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada determined in 2015 that the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their homes and their placement in church-run residential schools to assimilate them into Canadian Christians constituted “cultural genocide.”
“It’s true that I didn’t use the word because it didn’t cross my mind, but I was describing a genocide, right?” said Francois. “I apologized, I asked forgiveness for this work, which was genocide.”
— Suggested that he was not opposed to a development of Catholic doctrine on the use of contraception. Church teaching prohibits artificial contraception. Francis noted that a Vatican think tank recently published the proceedings of a congress where a change to the Church’s absolute “no” was discussed. He stressed that doctrine can develop over time and that it was the job of theologians to pursue such developments, with the pope ultimately deciding.
Francis noted that Church teaching on atomic weapons was changed during his pontificate to consider not just the use but the mere possession of atomic weapons as immoral and to consider the death penalty as immoral in all cases.
– Confirmed he hoped to travel to Kazakhstan in mid-September for an interfaith conference where he could meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who has justified the war in Ukraine. Francis also said he wanted to travel to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, although no trip has yet been confirmed. He said he hoped to postpone the trip to South Sudan which he had canceled due to his knee problems. He said the Congolese part of this trip would probably have to be postponed until next year due to the rainy season.
Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content.