EXCLUSIVE Pope Francis denies he plans to step down anytime soon – Reuters | Region & Cash

  • Unconfirmed rumors fueled reports of an impending retirement
  • Pope laughs at cancer rumours: ‘Doctors didn’t tell me’
  • Trips to Moscow, Kyiv seem more likely; possibly in September
  • Pope says abortion is ‘hiring a killer’ after US court ruling

VATICAN CITY, July 4 (Reuters) – Pope Francis has dismissed reports that he plans to step down in the near future.

In an exclusive interview at his Vatican residence, Francis also denied rumors that he had cancer and joked that his doctors “didn’t tell me anything about it,” giving for the first time details about the knee condition preventing him from completing it has some duties.

In a 90-minute conversation Saturday afternoon, conducted in Italian with no aides present, the 85-year-old pope also reiterated his condemnation of abortion following last month’s US Supreme Court ruling.

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Rumors circulated in the media that a chain of events in late August, including meetings with the world’s cardinals to discuss a new Vatican constitution, a ceremony to inaugurate new cardinals and a visit to the Italian city of L’Aquila, could be a foreshadowing Notice of Withdrawal.

L’Aquila is associated with Pope Celestine V, who resigned from the papacy in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI visited the city four years before his resignation in 2013, the first pope in about 600 years.

But Francis, who was alert and relaxed throughout the interview as he discussed a wide range of international and ecclesiastical issues, laughed at the idea.

“All these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would take place,” he said. “But it never crossed my mind. Right now no, right now no. Really!”

However, Francis reiterated his often-voiced position that he might one day resign if his health made it impossible for him to lead the church – something that predated Benedict XVI. had been almost unthinkable.

When asked when that might be, he said: “We don’t know. God will say.”


The interview came on the day he was due to leave for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, a trip he had to cancel because doctors said he may also need to book a trip to Canada from the 24th to the 30th. Missing July unless he agreed 20 more days of therapy and rest for his right knee. Continue reading

The decision to cancel the Africa trip caused him “a lot of suffering”, mainly because he wanted to promote peace in both countries. Continue reading

Francis used a cane when going into a ground-floor reception room at the Santa Marta guest house where he has lived since his election in 2013, avoiding the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors.

In the room is a copy of one of Francis’s favorite paintings: “Mary Untying the Knot”, created around 1700 by the German Joachim Schmidtner.

When asked how he was doing, the pope joked, “I’m still alive!”

He publicly revealed details of his condition for the first time, saying he suffered a “minor fracture” in his knee after a misstep caused by inflammation of the ligaments.

“I’m fine, I’m slowly getting better,” he said, adding that the fracture was knitting, helped by laser and magnetic therapy.

Francis also dismissed rumors that cancer was found a year ago when he underwent a six-hour operation to remove part of his colon for diverticulitis, a condition common in the elderly.

“It (the operation) was a great success,” he said, adding with a laugh, “They didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he dismissed as “court gossip.”

But he said he doesn’t want to have surgery on his knee because the general anesthesia used in last year’s surgery had negative side effects.

Papal trip to Moscow?

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Pope Francis pointed out that there had been contacts between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a possible trip to 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”. Continue reading

When the Vatican first asked about a trip a few months ago, Pope Francis said Moscow replied that it was not the right time.

But he hinted that things may have changed now.

“I would like to go (to Ukraine) and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about this because I thought if the Russian President would give me a little window to serve the cause of peace…

“And now it’s possible that I’ll manage to go to Ukraine after my return from Canada,” he said. “The first thing I have to do is go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”


When asked about the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade, which establishes a woman’s right to an abortion, told Francis he respected the decision but didn’t have enough information to speak about it from a legal standpoint. Continue reading

But he strongly condemned abortion, comparing it to “hiring a killer.” The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception.

“I ask: Is it legitimate, is it right to take a human life to solve a problem?”

Francis was asked about a debate in the United States about whether a Catholic politician who is personally opposed to abortion but supports the right to vote for others should receive the Sacrament of Communion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, was prevented from receiving it there by the conservative archbishop of her home diocese of San Francisco, but is regularly received at a parish in Washington, DC. Last week she received communion at a papal mass in the Vatican. Continue reading

“When the Church loses her pastoral character, when a bishop loses his pastoral character, that creates a political problem,” the pope said. “That’s all I can say.”

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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