The Pope said the Canada trip showed he needed to slow down.
He said he had not considered resigning until now.
He strained his right knee ligaments earlier this year and treatment forced him to cancel a trip to Africa.
He said the week-long pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed he needed to slow down and one day possibly retire.
Speaking to reporters while travelling home from northern Nunavut, the 85-year-old stressed he hadn’t thought about resigning but “the door is open” and there was nothing wrong with a pope stepping down.
“It’s not strange. It’s not a catastrophe,” he said.
“You can change the pope.”
Pope Francis said while he hadn’t considered resigning until now, he realised he has to at least slow down.
“I think at my age and with these limitations, I have to save [my energy] to be able to serve the church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside,” he said.
Pope Francis was peppered with questions about the future of his pontificate following the first trip in which he used a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around, sharply limiting his program and ability to mingle with crowds.
He strained his right knee ligaments earlier this year, and continuing laser and magnetic therapy forced him to cancel a trip to Africa that was scheduled for the first week of July.
The Canada trip was difficult, and featured several moments when Pope Francis was clearly in pain as he manoeuvred getting up and down from chairs.
At the end of his six-day tour, he appeared in good spirits and energetic, despite a long day travelling to the edge of the Arctic on Friday to again apologise to Indigenous peoples for the injustices they suffered in Canada’s church-run residential schools.
He ruled out having surgery on his knee, saying it would not necessarily help and noting “there are still traces” from the effects of having undergone more than six hours of anaesthesia in July 2021 to remove 33 centimetres of his large intestine.
“I’ll try to continue to do the trips and be close to people because I think it’s a way of servicing, being close. But more than this, I can’t say,” he said.
Image Credits: AP: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Pool