Guglielmo Mangiapane / AP
ONBOARD THE POPAL PLANE — Pope Francis acknowledged on Saturday that he can no longer travel as he used to because of his strained knee ligaments, saying his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed him to slow down and may retire one day.
Speaking to reporters as he traveled home from north Nunavut, 85-year-old Francis insisted he hadn’t thought about resigning, but said “the door is open” and there was nothing wrong with a pope’s resignation. .
“It’s not strange. It’s not a catastrophe. 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 stepping down until now, he realizes he needs to at least slow down.
“I think at my age and with these limitations I have to save (my energy) to serve the Church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside,” he said.
Francis was peppered with questions about the future of his pontificate after the maiden voyage in which he used a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around, severely limiting his program and ability to mingle with the crowd.
Earlier this year, he strained his right knee ligaments and continued laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa scheduled for the first week of July.
The journey to Canada was difficult and there were several times when Francis was clearly in pain as he maneuvered going up and down seats.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energized, despite a long day of traveling to the fringes of the Arctic on Friday to once again apologize to the indigenous peoples for the injustice they suffered at the hands of churches. run residential schools in Canada.
Francis ruled out surgery on his knee, saying it wouldn’t necessarily help, noting that “there are still traces” of the effects of undergoing more than six hours of anesthesia in July 2021 at 33 centimeters (13 inches) from his large intestine.
“I will try to keep doing the trips and being close to the people because I think it’s a way to serve, to be close. But I can’t say more than this,” he said on Saturday.
In other comments aboard the papal plane, Francis:
— He agreed that the attempt to eliminate Indigenous culture in Canada through a church-run school system amounted to a cultural “genocide.” Francis said he didn’t use the term on his trip to Canada because it didn’t cross my mind. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined in 2015 that the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their homes and placement in Church-run residential schools for inclusion in Christian, Canadian, constituted a “cultural genocide.”
“It’s true I didn’t use the word because it didn’t occur to me, but I was describing genocide, wasn’t I?” said Francis. “I apologized, I asked forgiveness for this work, which was genocide.”
— suggested that he was not against a development of Catholic teaching on the use of contraception. Church teaching prohibits artificial contraception. Francis noted that a Vatican think tank recently published the proceedings of a congress discussing a change to the Church’s absolute “no.” He emphasized that doctrine can evolve over time and that it is the job of theologians to pursue such developments, with the Pope ultimately deciding.
Francis noted that the Church’s teaching on nuclear weapons was changed during his pontificate to consider not only the use but also the mere possession of nuclear weapons immoral and to consider the death penalty immoral in all cases.
— Confirmed that 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 wants to go to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, although no trip has been confirmed yet. He said he hoped to reschedule the trip to South Sudan, which he canceled due to knee problems. He said the Congo portion of that trip will likely have to be postponed until next year due to the rainy season.
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