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Leaving Canada, Pope Francis Said It Might Be Time to Slow Down as Health Declines

He pointed to recent changes in Catholic teaching concerning the death penalty and the possession of nuclear weapons, which were once widely accepted within the church and later deemed “immoral” by Pope Francis.

The Vatican think-tank on bioethics, the Pontifical Academy for Life, recently published a book where some theologians argued in favor of developing the church’s teaching on contraceptives. Archival recordings show that Pope John Paul I had reservations regarding a total ban on artificial birth control.

“One cannot do theology with a ‘no’ in front of them,” the pope said, adding that “theological development must be open, because that’s what it’s for, and the magisterium serves to understand the limitations.”

He described as a “sin” the tendency of some “backwardists” who, while claiming to follow tradition, end up sustaining a “dead faith.” While encouraging the development of Catholic docrine, Francis said it must be done in line with tradition and with the church as a whole as enshrined by the early Christian monk Vincent of Lérins.

The pope also addressed a recent Vatican letter that pulled the brakes on a summit of bishops and lay faithful in Germany, which among other things was advocating for changes in Catholic teaching to be more welcoming toward LGBTQ couples and women. Francis said the letter was an “office mistake” because it was meant to be signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State and that he already said all he meant to say about the German synodal assembly in a 2021 letter.

Francis described his trip to Canada “as a bit of a test” to understand what future papal visits might be like. He said the effects of the anesthesia he underwent for his intestinal operation in July of last year led to a slow recovery. But the pope said he still intends to visit the embattled city of Kyiv in Ukraine once the logistics are determined.

He also said he is willing to go to Kazakhstan for an interreligious conference where Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill is scheduled to attend, adding “it would be a tranquil trip with little movement.”

He said he wishes to visit the African states of South Sudan and the Central African Republic of Congo, since he had to cancel his scheduled trip in early July due to his knee pain.

The pope spoke about the papacy as a “work, a function and a service” and did not exclude that God might one day ask him to retire.

“As an hypothesis, if the Lord tells me something I must discern what the Lord wants and it might be that the Lord wants me to take a step back,” he said. The pope’s decision to host a gathering of cardinals, or concistory, at the Vatican in the unusual month of August has spurred rumors Francis might be paving the road for the next pope.

Asked about what he would like to see in his successor, Francis said it’s best to leave the decision to “the work of the Holy Spirit.”

This article originally appeared here