On Saturday, Pope Francis indicated that his advanced age and difficulty walking have ushered in a new, slower period of his papacy, and he reiterated that he would be willing to resign one day if significant health concerns prevented him from governing the Church.
“I don’t think I can continue conducting travels with the same cadence as previously,” he told reporters onboard a jet returning to Rome following a week in Canada.
Francis, 85, has been using a wheelchair, cane, or walker for the past three months due to knee discomfort caused by a fracture and inflamed ligament.
He walked with a cane to the rear cabin where reporters fly but sat in a wheelchair for the regular 45-minute post-trip press conference, the first time he has done so on any of his 37 overseas flights since becoming Pope in 2013.
The pace of his tour to Canada, which focused on his apologies for the Church’s participation in residential schools to integrate indigenous children, was slower than normal, with only two activities per day and extensive periods of repose.
Francis stated that he opted not to undergo a knee procedure because he did not want to experience the same long-term unpleasant side effects from anaesthesia that he had following an intestinal surgery a year earlier.