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Pope Francis denies that he plans to resign soon

Rumors circulated in the media that the confluence of events at the end of August could herald a resignation announcement.

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

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In an exclusive interview at his Vatican residence, Francis also denied rumors that he had cancer, joked that his doctors “didn’t tell me about it” and gave details for the first time about a knee condition that has kept him out of duty.

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

Rumors swirled in the media that a confluence of events at the end of August, including a meeting with the world’s cardinals to discuss a new Vatican constitution, an induction ceremony for new cardinals and a visit to the Italian city of L’Aquila, could herald the resignation announcement.

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

But Francis, alert and calm during the interview as he discussed a wide range of international and church issues, laughed off the idea.

“All these coincidences have led some to think that the same ‘liturgy’ will be held,” he said. “But it never crossed my mind. Not at this time, not at this time. Really!”

But Francis reiterated his oft-stated position that he might one day resign if failing health prevented him from leading the Church — something that was almost unthinkable before Benedict XVI.

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

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KNEE INJURY

The interview came on the day he was scheduled to leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, a trip he had to cancel because doctors said he might have to miss the July 24-30 trip to Canada if he didn’t agree. 20 more days of therapy and rest for his right knee.

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

Francis used a cane as he entered the reception room on the ground floor of the Santa Marta guesthouse 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, Untier of Knots”, created around 1700 by the German Joachim Schmidtner.

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

He gave details of his illness in public for the first time, saying he suffered a “small fracture” in his knee when he made a misstep with ligament inflammation.

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

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

“The operation was a great success,” he said, ing with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he dismissed as “court gossip.”

But he said he did not want knee surgery because the general anesthetic for last year’s surgery had negative side effects.

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POPE’S TRIP TO MOSCOW?

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

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

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

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 it because I thought that if the Russian president would give me a small window to serve the cause of peace…

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

DECISION ON ABORTION

Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman’s right to an abortion, Francis said he respected the decision but did not have enough information to speak about it from a legal perspective.

But he strongly condemned abortion, likening it to “hiring a hit man”. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception.

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

Francis was asked at a debate in the United States about whether a Catholic politician who personally opposes abortion but supports the right of others to choose should be allowed to receive the sacrament of Communion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, has been banned from receiving communion there by the conservative archbishop of her home diocese of San Francisco, but receives regular communion at a parish in Washington, D.C. Last week, she received the sacrament at a papal Mass in the Vatican.

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

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