Pope Francis, 85, reduced by severe knee pain forcing him to move around in a wheelchair, said he could “no longer travel” at the same pace as before, also mentioning the possibility of “putting himself in side”.
“I don’t believe that I can maintain the same pace of travel as before. I believe that at my age, and with these limits, I must spare myself in order to be able to serve the Church, or on the contrary think about the possibility of put me aside,” he said during a press conference on the plane bringing him back from his trip to Canada, on the night of Friday to Saturday.
“In all honesty, it’s not a disaster. We can change the pope. It’s not a problem. But I think I have to limit myself a bit, with these efforts,” added the pope to journalists returning from his 37th international trip since his election in 2013.
“This trip was a bit of a test: it’s true that we can’t travel in this state, maybe we need to change the style a bit,” he admitted, while confiding that he “would try to continue to travel, to be close to people, because it is a way of serving, closeness”.
During this six-day visit, the pope moved mainly in a wheelchair and appeared weakened, but nevertheless greeted the crowd aboard the “popemobile”.
Jorge Bergoglio has also ruled out the possibility of surgery, confident of having “sequelae” from the anesthesia suffered in July 2021 during his colon operation.
The Argentine pontiff also renewed his desire to go to kyiv, without further details, and confirmed the plan to travel to Kazakhstan in September, to participate in a summit of senior religious leaders.
He also indicated that he would visit South Sudan “before” going to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), when he was to visit the two countries in early July on the same trip, postponed indefinitely in due to his state of health.
On the subject of a possible renunciation, like his predecessor Benedict XVI, the pope repeated that the door was “open”.
“But until today I haven’t pushed that door. As they say, I didn’t feel it, to think about this possibility. But that doesn’t mean that after tomorrow I won’t start to think it.”
Pope acknowledges ‘genocide’ over residential schools in Canada
Pope Francis also recognized a “genocide” in the tragedy of residential schools for natives in Canada, on his return from his six-day trip during which he repeatedly asked “forgiveness” from the Native American populations.
“I didn’t say the word (during the trip) because it didn’t come to mind, but I described the genocide. And I apologized, asked for forgiveness for this process that is genocide,” the pope said.
“Abduct children, change culture, change mentality, change traditions, change a race, let’s put it like that, a whole culture,” added the Argentine sovereign pontiff in reference to boarding schools for indigenous children (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) established in Canada between the end of the 19th century and the 1990s.
“Yes, genocide, it’s a technical word. I didn’t use it because it didn’t occur to me. But I described what, it is true, is genocide”, he insisted.
Throughout his visit, the pope asked “forgiveness” on several occasions for the role played by “many Christians” in this system set up by the governments of the time but mainly managed by the Catholic Church.
Some 150,000 children were forcibly recruited there. Many suffered physical or sexual abuse, and thousands never recovered, victims of disease, malnutrition or neglect.
Asked about the “doctrine of discovery”, the 15th century papal edicts which authorized European powers to colonize non-Christian lands and peoples, the pope deemed this “doctrine of colonization” “wrong” and “unjust”.
“This mentality that we are superior and the natives don’t matter is serious. For that, we have to work in this direction. To go back and clean up all that has been badly done, but realizing that today too , there is the same colonialism,” he replied.
In Quebec and then in Iqaluit, in the Arctic archipelago, natives had displayed signs and banners during the gatherings in the presence of the pope to ask to “revoke” this doctrine.