ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis admitted on Saturday he can’t travel like he used to because of strained knee ligaments, and said his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was “a little test” showing he needs to slow down, and possibly retire one day.
On his journey home from northern Nunavut, Francis, 85, told reporters that he had not considered resigning, saying “the door is open” and that there was nothing wrong with a pope resigning.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a disaster. You can change the Pope,” he said during a 45-minute press conference in an airplane wheelchair.
Francis said that while he hadn’t considered retiring until now, he felt he had to at least slow down.
“I think at my age and with these limitations, I have to conserve (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 after the first trip, which he used a wheelchair, a walker and a cane to get around, severely limiting his program and his ability to blend in with crowds.
Earlier this year he had torn the ligament in his right knee and continued laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa scheduled for the first week of July.
Cameramen capture Pope Francis as he speaks aboard the Pope’s flight July 30, 2022.AP
Pope Francis arrives in Canada on July 29, 2022 to meet former boarding school students at Iqaluit International Airport in Canada.VATICAN MEDIA HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Sh
The Canada trip was difficult and there were several moments when Francis was in distinct pain as he struggled to get in and out of chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic, despite a long day’s journey to the edge of the Arctic on Friday to once again apologize to indigenous people for the injustices they suffered in Canada’s church boarding schools .
Francis ruled out surgery on his knee, saying it wouldn’t necessarily help, noting that “there are still traces” of the effects of more than six hours of anesthesia in July 2021 to remove 13 inches of his colon.
“I will try to keep traveling and being close to people because I think being close is a way of serving. But that’s all I can say,” he said on Saturday.