Pope Francis has said he can’t travel like he used to because of his strained knee ligaments, and said his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed he was slowing down and might one day retire must.
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.
“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 stepping aside,” he said.
It was not the first time that Francis said that, should his health require it, he would support his predecessor Benedict XVI. who made history in 2013 by resigning due to failing physical and mental health.
Francis used a wheelchair, a walker, and a cane to get around during his trip.
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.
The Canada trip was difficult and there were several moments when Francis was clearly in pain as he was bucking up and down from 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, around 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his remove 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.
During his six-day “penitential pilgrimage” across Canada this week, the Pope offered a historic apology to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people who have been waiting years for such recognition from the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics.
Aboard the papal plane, he used the word “genocide” to describe decades of mistreatment and sexual abuse of Canada’s Indigenous children, who were ripped from their families and cultures to attend state schools run by the church .
“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 trial, which was genocide,” he told reporters.
Although Francis’ unprecedented apology was largely welcomed across Canada, many survivors said much more needs to be done for reconciliation.
The trip to Canada was Francis’ 37th international trip since he became pope in 2013.