VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis denies reports that he will resign soon. He said that he was on track to travel to Canada this month, and that he hopes to travel to Moscow and Kyiv in the next few days.
Francis denied the rumors of cancer in an interview at his Vatican residence. He joked that his doctors had "never told me anything" and revealed details about the knee condition that prevented him from performing certain duties.
The pontiff, 85, reiterated his condemnation for abortion in a conversation that lasted 90 minutes, which was conducted in Italian with no aides.
Rumours circulated in the media that a combination of events in August could lead to resignation announcements. These include meetings with cardinals around the world to discuss a new Vatican Constitution, a ceremony to induct new cardinals and a trip to L'Aquila in Italy.
L'Aquila is often associated with Pope Celestine VI, who resigned in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI was in the city in 2013 when he resigned, the first pope to do this in 600 years.
Francis laughed off the idea, being alert and relaxed throughout the interview, as he talked about a variety of Church and international issues.
He said that all of these coincidences led some to believe the same liturgy would occur. It never crossed my mind. No, at the moment. Really!"
Francis, however, reiterated his frequently stated position that he could resign if his health deteriorates and makes it difficult for him to lead the Church. This was almost impossible before Benedict XVI.
When he was asked when that would be, he replied: "We don’t know." God will tell you.
Interview took place the day before he was due to leave for South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. He had to cancel that trip because doctors told him he could also miss Canada's July 24-30 trip.
He stated that he was suffering from the decision to cancel his Africa trip, especially as he wanted peace to be promoted in both countries.
Francis walked with a cane into the reception room of Santa Marta Guest House on the ground floor. This is where he had lived since 2013, when he was elected to the office. He eschewed the Apostolic Palace, which he used as his papal apartment.
A copy of Francis's favorite painting, "Mary Untier of Knots", is found in the room. It was created by Joachim Schmidtner around 1700.
When asked how he was doing, the pope laughed and replied "I'm still living!"
For the first time, he spoke out about his condition. He said he had suffered a "small fracture" in his knee from a fall while an inflamed ligament was injured.
He said that he was doing well and that he is slowly improving.
Francis dismissed rumors that he had contracted cancer when he underwent six-hour surgery to remove part his colon due to diverticulitis. This is a common condition in the elderly.
He said that it was a great success and added with a laugh that they didn't tell him anything about the cancer. This he dismissed as "court gossip."
He said that he didn't want to have a knee operation because of the side effects from last year's general anaesthesia.
Francis spoke out about the Ukraine situation and noted that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin had made contact regarding a possible visit to Moscow.
Initial signs were not encouraging. The initial signs were not good. No pope has ever visited Moscow and Francis has repeatedly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last Thursday, he impliedly accused Russia of engaging in a "cruel war of aggression".
Francis replied to the Vatican's initial inquiry about a trip a few months back by saying that Moscow did not have the right time.
He suggested that things might have changed.
"I would love to travel (to Ukraine), but I was keen to first go to Moscow. We had a conversation about this because I felt that the Russian president would give me a window to help the cause of peace.
He said, "And now it's possible, after my return from Canada, it's possible that I manage get to Ukraine." "I would like to visit both capitals of Russia, but the first thing I want to do is go to Russia to assist in some way.
Francis answered a question about the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which guaranteed the constitutional right to abort. He said he respects the decision, but didn't have enough information to discuss it from a legal perspective.
He strongly condemned abortion and compared it to "hiring hit men." However, the Catholic Church teaches us that life begins at conception.
"I'm asking: Is it legal, is it right to end a person's life in order to solve a problem?"
Francis was asked his opinion on a debate taking place in the United States about whether a Catholic politician, who supports abortion rights but is opposed to it personally, should be allowed to receive communion.
Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives speaker, was barred by her conservative archbishop of San Francisco from receiving the sacrament there. However, she is regularly received communion at a Washington, D.C. parish. She also received the sacrament last week at a papal Mass at the Vatican.