Pope Francis said this Saturday (30) that abdicating his papacy, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did, would not be out of the question. After a week-long pilgrimage to Canada that he considered a test of resilience aboard the papal plane, the 85-year-old pontiff told reporters that “the door is open” to the abdication and that there would be nothing wrong with the decision, although he hasn’t really thought about it until now.
“It’s not weird. It’s not a catastrophe. You can change the pope,” said the head of the Catholic Church. He spoke of a wheelchair as he has ligament injuries in his right knee. Reflecting on physical limitations and age, Francis declared that he needs to save a little more to be able to serve the church. “Otherwise”, if I cannot preserve my health, “I think about the possibility of leaving.”
It was the first trip in which the Pope needed a wheelchair, cane and walker to be able to interact with the faithful. He expressed pain when getting up from chairs and moving around. Doctors are applying magnetic therapy and laser therapy to the knee. Because of the problem, the Vatican had to cancel a trip to Africa in the first week of July.
It is not the first serious health problem: in July of 2021, surgeons removed more than 30 centimeters of his large intestine. The surgery took more than six hours. At the press conference, he seemed excited and said he wants to continue traveling “to be close to the people, because I think it’s a way of serving, of being close”. He hopes to be able to go to Kazakhstan in September for an ecumenical congress where he can meet the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who gave justification for the Ukraine war. He also intends to go to Kiev and fulfill the canceled agenda in Africa.
The pontiff took advantage of the trip to Canada to ask forgiveness from indigenous peoples for injustices they suffered in boarding schools run by the church in the country. Children were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools to be catechized and acculturated as Canadians. The boarding school system was accused of promoting a “cultural genocide” against the natives by a government commission in the country in 2015.
Francis said he just didn’t use that term. because you didn’t think about it. “But I described the genocide, didn’t I?” he returned the question to reporters. “I asked forgiveness for this work, which was genocide.”
He also commented on possible new developments in the church’s position on artificial contraceptives. In the Vatican, debates within the church have discussed the doctrine’s absolute “no” to these methods of preventing pregnancy. The Pope did not signal that any changes will take place, he emphasized that the doctrine may develop over time, depending on the debates of theologians, but that the decision is his (or a successor).
Francis reported on the church’s teaching on nuclear weapons, which he changed in his pontificate to consider not only their use but their possession sinful. He also commented that for the church the death penalty is immoral in all cases.