In a 90-minute conversation on Saturday afternoon, conducted in Italian, in the absence of aides, the 85-year-old pontiff also reiterated his condemnation of abortion following the US Supreme Court ruling. United last month.
Rumors swirled in the media that a conjunction of events at the end of August, including meetings with world cardinals to discuss a new Vatican constitution, an enthronement ceremony for new cardinals and a visit to the Italian town of L’Aquila, could foreshadow a resignation announcement.
L’Aquila is associated with Pope Celestine V, who resigned from the papacy in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI visited the city four years before resigning in 2013, the first pope to do so in around 600 years.
But Francis, alert and at ease throughout the interview as he discussed a wide range of international and church issues, laughed off the idea.
“All of these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen,” he said. “But that never occurred to me. For the moment no, for the moment no. Really !
Francis, however, repeated his oft-stated position that he might resign one day if his failing health prevented him from leading the Church – which was almost unthinkable before Benedict XVI.
When asked when he thought it might be, he replied, “We don’t know. God will tell.”
The interview took place on the day he was due to leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, a trip he had to cancel because doctors said he might also miss a trip to Canada from 24 until July 30 unless he agrees to have another 20 days of therapy and rest for his right knee.
He said the decision to cancel the trip to Africa caused him “a lot of pain”, not least because he wanted to promote peace in the two countries.
Francis used a cane as he entered a reception hall on the ground floor of the Santa Marta guesthouse where he has lived since his election in 2013, avoiding the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors.
The room has a copy of one of François’ favorite paintings: “Marie, untier of Knots”, created around 1700 by the German Joachim Schmidtner.
When asked how he was, the pope joked, “I’m still alive!”
He gave details of his ailment for the first time in public, saying he suffered “a small fracture” in his knee when he misstepped while a ligament was inflamed.
“I’m fine, slowly getting better,” he said, adding that the fracture was knitting together, aided by laser and magnet therapy.
Francis also dismissed rumors that cancer was discovered a year ago when he underwent a six-hour operation to remove part of his colon due to diverticulitis, a common condition among older people.
“It (the operation) was a great success,” he said, adding with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he called “gossip from the court”.
But he said he didn’t want knee surgery because the general anesthetic from last year’s operation had negative side effects.
Papal trip to Moscow?
Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, Francis noted that there had been contacts between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip. in Moscow.
The first signs were not good. No pope has ever visited Moscow and Francis has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; last Thursday, he implicitly accused her of waging a “cruel and senseless war of aggression”.
When the Vatican first requested a trip several months ago, Francis said Moscow responded that it was not the right time.
But he hinted that something may have changed.
“I would like to go (to Ukraine), and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about it because I thought if the Russian president would give me a little window to serve the cause of peace. . and now it is possible, after my return from Canada, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine, “he said. “The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help one way or another, but I would like to go to both capitals.”
Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade establishing a woman’s right to have an abortion, Francis said he respects the decision but does not have enough information to speak to it from a legal standpoint.
But he strongly condemned abortion, likening it to “hiring a hitman”. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception.
“I ask: is it legitimate, is it fair to eliminate a human life to solve a problem?”
Francis was asked about a debate in the United States over whether a Catholic politician who is personally opposed to abortion but supports the right of others to choose should be allowed to receive the sacrament of communion.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, for example, was prevented by the conservative archbishop of her home diocese of San Francisco from receiving him there, but regularly receives communion at a parish in Washington, D.C. Last week she received the sacrament at a Pontifical Mass at the Vatican.
“When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, that poses a political problem,” the pope said. “That’s all I can say.”
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