‘You can change the pope’: Francis says he must slow down or consider retiring

30 July 2022, 09:54

Canada Pope
Canada Pope. Picture: PA

The pope said his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was ‘a bit of a test’.

Pope Francis has acknowledged he can no longer travel like he used to because of his strained knee ligaments, saying his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed he needs to slow down and one day possibly retire.

Speaking to reporters while traveling home from Nunavut near the Arctic Cirle, the 85-year-old stressed that he had not thought about resigning but said “the door is open” and there was nothing wrong with a pope stepping down.

“It’s not strange. It’s not a catastrophe. You can change the pope,” he said while sitting in a wheelchair during a 45-minute news conference.

Francis said that while he had not considered resigning until now, he realises he has to at least slow down.

Canada Pope
Pope Francis is helped to get on a wheelchair upon his arrival at Quebec’s airport (Gregorio Borgia/AP)

“I think at my age and with these limitations, I have to save (my energy) to be able 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 following the first trip in which he used a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around, sharply limiting his programme and ability to mingle with crowds.

He strained his right knee ligaments earlier this year, and continuing laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa that was scheduled for the first week of July.

The Canada trip was difficult, and featured several moments when Francis was clearly in pain as he manoeuvred getting up and down from chairs.

Canada Pope
Francis said he wanted to be able to stay close to people (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic, despite a long day travelling to the edge of the Arctic on Friday to again apologise to Indigenous peoples for the injustices they suffered in Canada’s church-run residential schools.

Francis ruled out having surgery on his knee, saying it would not necessarily help and noting “there are still traces” from the effects of having undergone more than six hours of anaesthesia in July 2021 to remove 13in of his large intestine.

“I’ll try to continue to do the trips and be close to people because I think it’s a way of servicing, being close. But more than this, I can’t say,” he said.

By Press Association

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