Pope Francis admitted on Saturday that he can no longer travel as he used to because of strained knee ligaments, sayingit was “a bit of a test” that showed he needs to slow down and one day maybe retire.
Speaking to reporters on his way home from northern Nunavut, the 85-year-old Francis stressed that he had not considered resigning, but said “the door is open” and there was nothing wrong with a pope leaving.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a disaster. You can change the pope,” he said while sitting in an airplane wheelchair during a 45-minute press conference.
Francis said that although he hadn’t considered resigning until now, he realizes that he needs to at least slow down.
“I think that at my age and with these limitations, I should save (my energy) to be able to serve the church, or rather, think about the possibility of leaving,” he said.
Francis was beset 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 ability to mingle with the 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 that was scheduled for the first week of July.
The trip to Canada was difficult and featured several moments when Francis was clearly in pain as he maneuvered himself up and down from chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic despite a long day traveling to the edge of the Arctic on Friday to again apologize to indigenous peoples for the injustices they suffered in schools. church-run residential in Canada.
Francis ruled out knee surgery, saying it would not necessarily help and noting “there are still traces” from the effects of undergoing more than six hours of anesthesia in July 2021 to remove 13 inches of his colon.
“I’m going to try to keep traveling and being around people because I think it’s a way of service, being around. But more than that, I can’t say,” he said Saturday.
In other comments aboard the papal plane, Francis agreed that the effortin Canada, through a church-run residential school system, amounted to cultural “genocide.”
Francis said he did not use the term during his trip to Canada because it did not occur to him. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined in 2015 that forcibly removing Indigenous children from their homes and placing them in church-run residential schools to assimilate them into Christian Canadians constituted “cultural genocide.”
“It’s true that I didn’t use the word because it didn’t occur to me, but I described genocide, didn’t I? said Francis. “I apologized, I apologized for this work which was genocide”.