The pope holds a news conference aboard, the papal plane on July 29, 2022, during his flight back from a visit to Canada.

On boarding the plane, the trip, Pope Francis said, was a “test” — first a 10-hour flight across the Atlantic and an eight-hour time change, followed by nine speeches in five different places in Canada. It was a lot for an 85-year-old pope with a knee so painful that he can scarcely walk on his own.

So, on the return flight to Rome, Francis said he has concluded that he needs to slow down. He said his style would have to change a bit. He even said the “door is open” for retirement, although nothing is imminent.

“I don’t think I can go with the same pace of the trips as before,” Francis said, conducting his news conference aboard the papal plane from a seat. “I think at my age and with this limitation, I have to save (my energy) a bit to be able to serve the church or, on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside. This I say with all honesty. It is not a catastrophe. It is possible to change pope.”

He said it was a “normal option” to think about retirement. Which echoed other comments to where he has stated he would be open to stepping down if his health made it impossible to run the church.

But so far, Francis said, he has not reached that point.

“That doesn’t mean the day after tomorrow I don’t start thinking (about it), right?” Francis said. “But right now, I honestly don’t.”

During his six days in Canada, Francis had moments both of sturdiness and frailty. From all the jet lag, he steadily delivered one speech after the next and enjoyed moments of clear levity, such as when he called for a detour from his wheelchair to get closer to a crowd outside a church.

But he also faced limitations far different from earlier years in his papacy. While visiting an Indigenous community in the plains of Alberta, where he apologized for the brutality of Canada’s residential school system, he was wheeled to the edge of a wooden pathway leading to a cemetery. But he couldn’t move among the grave markers, all of which were on grass. Although he has been quite healthy for much of his papacy, Francis over the past year and a half has dealt with so much pain sciatic nerve which is affecting a major part of his leg, he also has undergone colon surgery, and most recently has experienced knee inflammation that has left him largely dependent on a wheelchair. The lost mobility has forced him to reconsider his hands-on

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