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Pope Francis says strain of Canada trip shows he may have to retire

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Pope Francis has said that it may be time for him to retire soon due to health concerns, as his trip to Canada concluded on Saturday.

At the end of the six-day tour to the country, the 85-year-old pontiff said that he can no longer travel as he used to due to his physical ailments.

“It’s not strange. It’s not a catastrophe. You can change the pope,” he said while sitting in an airplane wheelchair during a 45-minute news conference.

“I think at my age and with these limitations, I have to save (my energy) to be able to serve the church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside,” he added.

During the Canada trip, the pope was seen for the first time using a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around, which curtailed his programme and ability to interact with crowds.

Earlier this year he strained his right knee ligaments.

Continuing treatment for his knee forced him to cancel a trip to Africa that was scheduled for the first week of July.

“I’ll try to continue to do the trips and be close to people because I think it’s a way of servicing, being close. But more than this, I can’t say,” he said.

On Monday, the pope delivered a long-sought apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s “residential school” system under which an estimated 150,000 children were separated from their families between 1883 and the 1970s.

Indigenous children were brutally forced to assimilate in these schools and often became the subject of neglect and physical and sexual abuse.

Catholic orders operated 66 of the 139 government-funded residential schools, the sites of what Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has deemed a “cultural genocide”.

The pope said on Saturday that he did not use the word “genocide” as it did not come to his mind.

The Canadian government said on Wednesday that his apology did not go far enough.

“It’s true I didn’t use the word because it didn’t come to mind, but I described genocide, no?” Francis said.

“I apologised, I asked forgiveness for this work, which was genocide.”

He also confirmed that he hoped to travel to Kazakhstan in mid-September for an interfaith conference where he might meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who has justified the war in Ukraine.

A trip to Kyiv was also on the pope’s agenda, though there has been no confirmation of a schedule yet.

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