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Pope Francis denies resignation rumors, says he hopes to visit Moscow and Kyiv

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has denied reports that he plans to resign in the near future, saying he is on his way to visit Canada this month and hopes to be able to go to Moscow and Kiev as soon as possible after that.

In an exclusive interview at his Vatican residence, Francis also denied rumors that he had cancer, joking that his doctors “didn’t tell me anything about it” and for the first time detailing the knee condition that prevented him from getting pregnant. of some duties.

In a 90-minute conversation on Saturday afternoon, conducted in Italian without aides present, the 85-year-old pope reiterated his condemnation of abortion following last month’s US Supreme Court ruling.

Rumors circulated in the media that a coupling of events in late August, including meetings with world cardinals to discuss a new Vatican constitution, a ceremony to appoint new cardinals, and a visit to the Italian city of L’Aquila, could herald 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 his resignation in 2013, the first pope to do so in nearly 600 years.

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

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

Pope Francis waves as he arrives in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on June 25.Andrew Medicini/AFP

However, Francis reiterated his often stated position that he might one day resign if his deteriorating health made it impossible for him to run the Church – something almost unimaginable before Pope Benedict XVI.

Asked about the possibility of that happening, he said, “We don’t know. God will say.”

knee injury

The interview took place on the day he was going to leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, a flight he had to cancel because doctors said he might also have to miss a flight to Canada from July 24-30 unless he agreed. 20 days of treatment and rest for his right knee.

He said the decision to cancel the African trip caused him “a lot of suffering”, especially because he wanted to promote peace in both countries.

Francis used the cane as he walked into the reception room on the ground floor of the Santa Marta guest house where he had lived since his election in 2013, avoiding the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors.

The room contains a copy of one of Francis’ favorite paintings: “Mary, Untier of Knots,” painted by German Joachim Schmidtner around 1700.

Asked about his condition, the Pope joked: “I’m still alive!”

He gave details of his illness for the first time in public, saying he sustained a “small fracture” of his knee when he miscalculated while one of his ligaments was inflamed.

“I’m fine, I’m slowly getting better,” he said, adding that the fracture was a suturing, with the help of laser therapy and magnets.

Francis also denied rumors of finding cancer a year ago when he underwent a six-hour surgery to remove part of his colon due to diverticulitis, a condition common in older adults.

“It (the operation) was a huge success,” he said, adding with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he called “a tight rumour.”

But he said he did not want to have surgery on his knee because the general anesthesia in surgery last year had negative side effects.

Pope’s trip to Moscow?

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, Francis noted that there were contacts between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Petro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov regarding a possible visit to Moscow.

Initial signs were not good. No pope had ever visited Moscow, and Francis repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; Last Thursday, he implicitly accused her of waging a “cruel, senseless war of aggression.”

When the Vatican first asked about a trip several months ago, Francis said Moscow responded that this was not the time.

But he hinted that something might have changed now.

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

“And now it is possible, after I return from Canada, that I may be able to go to Ukraine,” he said. “The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

Abortion ruling

Asked about the US Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion, Francis said he respected the decision but did not have enough information to speak about it from a legal point of view.

But he strongly condemned abortion, likening it to the “employment of a hitman.” The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at 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 personally opposes abortion but supports others’ right to choose should be allowed to have the sacrament of communion.

For example, the conservative Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco prevented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving it there, but she is regularly offered Eucharist in a diocese in Washington, D.C. last week, that received Eucharist in one of the parishes. Papal Mass in the Vatican.

“When the church loses its pastoral nature, and when the bishop loses its pastoral nature, it causes a political problem,” the Pope said. “That’s all I can say.”

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