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Pope Francis says he could step down, but not yet

Pope Francis has said the time may soon come when he needs to consider stepping down – and would do so if he felt his health meant that could not serve in the way he should.

He made the comments at the end of a trip to Canada – where he apologized to indigenous people – which involved extensive travel and long days.

The 85-year-old pontiff stressed that for the moment he intends to continue in his duties – and will be guided by God as to when he will step down, if he steps down at all.

“It is not a catastrophe to change Pope, it is not a taboo,” he told journalists from a wheelchair on the plane from Canada’s Arctic territory to Rome.

“The door [to retiring] is open – it is a normal option. But until today I have not knocked on that door. I have not felt the need to think about this possibility – that is not to say that in two days’ time I might not start thinking about it.”

Over recent months Pope Francis has suffered ongoing knee trouble that has impacted his mobility. He spent much of his visit to Canada in a wheelchair.

But he has previously dismissed speculation about more serious, life-threatening illnesses.

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