Pope Francis has said he can’t travel like he used to because of strained knee ligaments, saying his week-long Canadian pilgrimage is “a bit of a test” that shows he needs to slow down and maybe one day retire.
Speaking to reporters as he returned home from northern Nunavut, Francis, 85, stressed he hadn’t thought of quitting but said “the door is open” and he there was nothing wrong with a pope resigning.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a disaster. You can change the pope,” he said.
“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, to think about the possibility of withdrawing,” he said.
It was not the first time that Francis has said that – if his health demanded it – he could follow his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who made history in 2013 by stepping down due to declining physical and mental health.
Francis used a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around during his trip.
He strained ligaments in his right knee earlier this year, and continued laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa scheduled for the first week of July.
The Canada The journey was difficult and featured several moments where Francis was clearly in pain as he maneuvered getting up and down from chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic, despite a long day of travel to the Arctic rim on Friday to once again apologize to the indigenous people for the injustices they have suffered. in Church-run residential schools in Canada.
Francis ruled out knee surgery, saying it wouldn’t necessarily help and noting “there are traces left” of the effects of having undergone more than six hours of anesthesia in July 2021 to remove 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine.
“I’m going to try to continue to travel and be close to people because I think it’s a way of being of service, of being close. But more than that I can’t say,” he said on Saturday.
During his six-day “penitential pilgrimage” across Canada this week, Pope made a historic apology to First Nations, Métis and Inuit, who have been waiting for years for such recognition from the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Aboard the papal plane, he used the word ‘genocide’ to describe the decades of mistreatment and sexual abuse of Canada’s Indigenous children, who were torn from their families and cultures to attend schools church-run public.
“I didn’t say the word [in Canada] because it didn’t occur to me, but I described the genocide. And I asked forgiveness for this process which was genocide,” he told reporters.
While Francis’ unprecedented apology was generally welcomed across Canada, many survivors said much more needed to be done for reconciliation.
The trip to Canada was Francis’ 37th international trip since becoming pope in 2013.