Pope Francis has dismissed rumours that he has cancer as “court gossip”.
In a wide-ranging interview, the Holy Father denied that cancer was discovered during surgery last July to remove a section of his colon.
The Pope said the operation was “a great success” and that his recent debilitation has arisen solely from problems with his knee.
He told Philip Pullela of Reuters that he “a small fracture” in the knee and that a ligament was inflamed.
“I am well, I am slowly getting better,” Francis said in an interview which will be published in instalments over the next two days.
He explained that he was undergoing laser and magnet therapy, but that he did not want to have an operation on the knee after having a negative reaction to general anaesthetic during surgery last year.
Rumours about the state of the Pope’s health increased after the papal visit to Lebanon in June was postponed and trips this month to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan were also cancelled.
The Pope also called a consistory of cardinals for the end of August – three months earlier than the normal time for such a meeting – prompting speculation that he was preparing to resign to make way for a successor.
During the interview, conducted in Italian with no aides present, the prospect of Francis possibly stepping down during an August trip to L’Aquila, an Italian city associated with Pope Celestine V, who resigned in 1294, was raised by Pullela, who pointed out that Pope Benedict XVI relinquished the petrine office after making a visit there.
“All of these coincidences made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen,” Pope Francis said. “But it never entered my mind. For the moment no, for the moment, no. Really!”
The Pope said, however, that resignation remained a possibility if failing health made it impossible for him to govern the Church.
When asked directly when that might be, Pope Francis responded: “We don’t know. God will say.”
The interview also covered the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the ruling which made abortion up to birth a constitutional right, returning power to regulate abortion law to the individual states.
The Pope said he respected the decision, but had not studied it enough to comment on it from a juridical point of view.
But he condemned abortion, once again likening it to “hiring a hit man”.
“Is it legitimate, is it right,” he asked, “to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?”
The Pontiff also emphasised the importance of a pastoral approach to Catholic politicians who supported abortion.
He said: “When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem.”
(Photo of Pope Francis interviewed by Philip Pullela courtesy of Vatican Media)
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