In a wide-ranging interview with American journalist Philip Pullella of Reuters, Pope Francis covers topics such as the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the possibility of resigning, the decision to postpone his planned Apostolic Visit to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and his hopes for a trip to Moscow and Kyiv.
Pope Francis has responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which returned power to regulate abortion to the individual states, saying he respected the decision, but had not studied it enough to comment on it from a juridic point of view. “I tell you the truth. I don’t understand it from a technical point of view,” he explained, adding, “I have to study it because I don’t really understand (the details of) the ruling 50 years ago and now I can’t say whether it did right or wrong from a judicial point of view.” However, he said, “I respect the decisions.”
The science and morality of abortion
The Pope went on to consider the question of abortion itself, saying, “Leaving that [the Supreme Court decision] aside, let’s go back to the issue of abortion, which is a problem.” He said it is important to look at what science has learned in the past few decades: “In this we have to be scientific, see what science tells us today. Science today and any book on embryology, the one our medical students study, tells you that 30 days after conception there is DNA and the laying out already of all the organs.”
He asked, “Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?” He insisted, “It’s a human life – that’s science. The moral question is whether it is right to take a human life to solve a problem.”
“Indeed, is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem?”
Pope Francis made the remarks in an hour-and-a-half-long interview with Reuters correspondent Philip Pullella, published on Monday 4 July.
The Holy Father also emphasized the importance of a pastoral approach to Catholic politicians who support abortion, saying, “When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem. That’s all I can say.”
Rumours of impending resignation
The interview, conducted in Italian with no aides present, covered a wide variety of topics, including swirling rumours that the Pope might be planning to resign, possibly during an upcoming trip to L’Aquila. The Italian city, as Pullella notes, is associated with Pope Celestine V, who resigned in 1294; and with Benedict XVI, who is thought to have foreshadowed his own resignation when he laid his pallia on Celestine’s tomb during a visit to the city in 2009.
“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.” However, he said, “when the time comes that I see that I can’t do it [run the Church, because of bad health] I will do it [resign].” The Pope noted, “That was the great example of Pope Benedict. It was such a very good thing for the Church. He told popes to stop in time.”
“He is one of the greats, Benedict.”
When asked directly when he might resign, Pope Francis responded, “We don’t know. God will say.”
Pope Francis denied rumours that cancer had been found during an operation last year to remove part of his colon. “Yes, they took out 33 cm of my colon, the sigmoid colon, for diverticulitis. It went well. It took more than six hours of anaesthesia and that’s why I don’t want to have surgery here [on the knee], because anaesthesia leaves traces.”
“[The operation] was fundamentally successful, a great success.”
When asked about reports that the doctors discovered cancer during the operation, the Pope replied, laughing, “They didn’t tell me about it. They didn’t tell me. They explained everything to me well – full stop. No [cancer].”
He denounced reports to the contrary, saying, “That is court gossip. The court spirit is still there in the Vatican. And if you think about it, the Vatican is the last European court of an absolute monarchy.”
The Pope’s knee
The Pope went on to give further details of the specific health issues, explaining, “It’s a ligament that became inflamed, and because I walked badly and this walking badly moved a bone, [this caused] a fracture there and that’s the problem.”
Now, he said, “I am well; I am slowly getting better I am slowly improving and technically the calcification has already occurred, thanks to all the work done with the laser … and magnet therapy.” Now, he said, “I have to start moving because there’s a danger of losing muscle tone if one doesn’t move. It’s getting better; it gets better.”
Health issues with his knee forced the postponement of his trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, a trip that would have taken place this week. Pope Francis said the decision to postpone the trip caused him great suffering.
“I suffered so much for not being able to do this trip, but the doctor told me not to do it because I am not able to do it yet.”
However, he said, “I will do the one to Canada because the doctor told me, ‘With 20 more days you will recover.’ But [they told me] this trip [to Africa] is a health risk. That’s why I stopped it.”
A visit to Russia?
With regard to possible future travels, Pope Francis said, “I would like to go [to Ukraine], and I wanted to go to Moscow first. We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the president of Russia gave me a tiny window, I would go there to serve the cause of peace.”
Now, he said, “It’s possible, after I come back from Canada; it is possible that I [might] manage to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals,” that is, Kyiv and Moscow.
The Pope noted that, with Russia, “there is still that very open dialogue, very cordial, very diplomatic in the positive sense of the word, but for the moment it’s OK; the door is open.”
With thanks to Vatican News, where this article originally appeared.