Pope Francis said Saturday that he is “open” to the possibility of retiring if he discerns that it is God’s will.
“I think that at my age and with this limitation I have to cut back a little bit to be able to serve the Church or on the contrary think about the possibility of stepping aside,” Pope Francis told journalists on the papal plane on July 30.
During an in-flight press conference on his return flight to Rome from Iqaluit, Canada, Francis said that “the Lord will say” when it is time to resign.
“The door is open. It’s one of the normal options, but up to today I haven’t knocked on that door,” the pope said.
“I haven’t felt like thinking about that possibility. But maybe that doesn’t mean the day after tomorrow I will start thinking,” he added.
The 85-year-old pope was asked multiple times during the press conference about whether he would resign in light of the physical health limitations he has faced in recent months.
Francis told one journalist in response: “Whatever the Lord says. The Lord can tell me to resign. It is the Lord who commands.”
He explained that “discernment is key in a Jesuit’s vocation” and that means that “he must be open to whatever the Lord asks of him.”
Pope Francis also acknowledged that in the meantime he may need to slow down a bit with his travel schedule due to his health.
“I don’t think I can move at the same pace of travel as before,” the pope said.
“Knee surgery is not planned in my case. The experts say yes, but there is the whole problem of anesthesia. Ten months ago I underwent more than six hours of anesthesia and there are still traces. You don’t play, you don’t mess around with anesthesia,” he said.
The pope added that he will try to continue to go on trips to be close to people “because I think it is a way of service.”
In particular, Francis highlighted that he would “like to go to Ukraine.” He said that he expects his planned trip to Kazakhstan in September to attend the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions to be a calm visit.
The pope spoke at the end of a week-long journey to Canada in which he traveled to Edmonton, Québec, and Iqaluit on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to apologize to the country’s indigenous communities.