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Pope Francis says he may consider retirement, slow pace

Pope Francis says he may consider retirement, slow pace
Pope Francis holds a news conference aboard the papal plane on his flight back after visiting Canada on Saturday. Photo by Guglielmo Mangiapane/EPA-EFE

July 30 (UPI) -- Pope Francis said Saturday that the door to retirement "is open" and he may consider slowing his pace while calling his recent trip to Canada a "test" of his ability to continue in his role.

Francis made his comments to reporters while seated in a wheelchair on the papal plane as the 85-year-old returned to the Vatican after nearly a week meeting with Indigenous leaders in Canada.

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"It's a natural option, but until today I haven't knocked on that door. I haven't said it's going to go in that direction, I haven't felt the need to think about this possibility. But that doesn't mean that the day after tomorrow, I won't start thinking about it, right? But right now, sincerely, I am not," Francis said.

The pope added that trips such as his travel to Canada "shouldn't be taken" while in his physical condition.

RELATED Pope Francis 'deeply sorry' for Indigenous abuses at Christian schools in Canada

"The style may have to be changed a bit, lessen them, pay off the debts of the trips that still have to be made, rearrange -- but it will be the Lord who will say it," Francis said. "The door is open, that is true."

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In further comments reported by the BBC, the pontiff added that "it is not a catastrophe to change pope, it is not a taboo."

Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, retired in 2013 over health concerns.

RELATED Pope Francis visits Canada to apologize for abuse of indigenous children

Francis spent much of his trip to Canada confined to a wheelchair after having suffered from ongoing knee problems in recent months but has dismissed concerns of more serious illness. Throughout his papacy, he has also suffered from sciatica and has undergone colon surgery.

The pope recently had to cancel a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan because of his knee problems but is expected to travel to Kazakhstan in September, The Washington Post reported.

He has also said that he hopes to visit Ukraine soon but needs to seek the advice of his doctor first before traveling to the war-torn country.

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