Pope Francis has acknowledged that he needs to slow down, telling reporters after a six-day trip to Canada that he cannot keep up his pace of international travel and may need to consider retiring.
“I don’t think I can move at the same pace as I used to travel,” said Papa, 85, who suffers from knee pain that has made him increasingly dependent on a wheelchair.
“I think that at my age and with this limitation, I have to save myself a little in order to be able to serve the Church. Or, alternatively, consider stepping aside.”
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has raised the issue of following the example of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned due to ill health in 2013 and now lives quietly in the Vatican.
In 2014, a year after his papacy, Pope Francis told reporters that if his health interfered with his papal functions, he would consider resigning.
“The door is open, it’s one of the normal options, but I haven’t knocked on that door so far,” he said on Saturday.
“But that doesn’t mean that the day after tomorrow I won’t start thinking, right? But right now I honestly don’t think so.
“Besides, this trip was a bit of a challenge. It is true that you cannot travel in this state, you should perhaps change the style a little, reduce, pay off the debts of the trips that you have yet to take and rearrange.
“But the Lord will say. The door is open, it’s true.”
I will try to continue to go on trips and be close to people, because I consider this a way of service, closeness.
The comments come after intense speculation about the future of Pope Francis after he was forced to cancel a number of events due to knee pain, including a trip to Africa scheduled for earlier this month.
The conversation was also fueled by his decision to convene an extraordinary consistory on August 27, the slow summer month in the Vatican, to appoint 21 new cardinals, 16 of whom will be under 80 years old, in order to elect his successor to a future conclave.
Pope Benedict’s decision to step down sent shock waves through the Catholic Church. He was the first pope to retire since the Middle Ages, but the precedent has now been set.
“Honestly, this is not a disaster, you can change the pope, you can change, no problem! But I think that I should limit myself a little in these efforts,” Pope Francis said on Saturday.
He primarily used a wheelchair during his trip to Canada, where he made a historic apology for decades of abuse of indigenous children in boarding schools run by the Catholic Church.
But he got up in his Popemobile to greet the crowd.
Pope Francis has said surgery on his knee is not possible, adding that he is still feeling the effects of six hours under anesthesia last summer when he underwent colon surgery.
“You don’t play, you don’t mess around with anesthesia,” he said.
But he added, “I’ll try to keep going on trips and being close to people because I think it’s a way of serving, intimacy.”
Pope Francis recently made a six-day trip to Canada. Credits: VATICAN/EPA MEDIA HANDOUT
Pope Francis is still hoping to reschedule his postponed trip to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“But it will be next year because of the rainy season – we’ll see: I have all the goodwill, but we’ll see what the leg says,” he joked.
The Argentine pontiff reiterated that he would like to visit war-torn Ukraine, but did not give details of his plans.
He has another foreign trip planned for a religious congress in Kazakhstan in September.
“At the moment, I would like to go: it’s a calm trip, without much traffic,” Papa said.