Pope Francis has put to rest any rumors that he's preparing to resign from the papacy, telling a group of bishops he will serve "'as long as God allows."
During a meeting of more than a dozen visiting Catholic bishops from Brazil Wednesday, Francis discussed both his health and his future plans for the church. He reportedly told Archbishop Roque Palosch that resigning "does not cross his mind," according to the Portuguese edition of the Vatican's official news service.
The pope reportedly told the bishops, "I want to live my mission as long as God allows me and that's it," according to The Daily Mail.
As CBN News reported Tuesday, Francis had sparked speculation among church watchers after postponing a trip to Africa and announcing an unusual meeting of cardinals set for later this summer, according to The Mail.
The 85-year-old pontiff, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church with more than 1.2 billion followers, has been confined to a wheelchair due to nerve pain in his knee. He recently decided to delay trips scheduled for next month to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
Francis, who formerly served as Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected pope in 2013 following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI due to health reasons.
The pope has called for a meeting of the cardinals later this summer known as a "consistory." The consistory will be held on Aug. 27 and will create 21 new cardinals. Sixteen of those cardinals will be under the age of 80 and will be eligible to elect Francis's successor when a future conclave is called, according to The Mail.
The pope's appointment of 83 new cardinals has some Vatican watchers wondering if this move is to ensure that his reforms will "modernize" the church.
Francis recently complained that traditionalist Catholics, particularly in the United States, are "gagging" the church's modernizing reforms and insisted that there was no turning back.
Traditionalists have become some of Francis' fiercest critics, accusing him of heresy for his opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, outreach to gay Catholics, and other reforms. Francis has taken an increasingly hard line against them, re-imposing restrictions on celebrating the old Latin Mass and taking specific action in dioceses and religious orders where traditionalists have resisted his reforms.
Among the reforms to the overall church's administration, Francis supports allowing women to lead Vatican offices.
Meanwhile, the Vatican on Thursday released the itinerary for Pope Francis' July 24-30 visit to Canada, providing a sign he intends to go ahead with the trip despite knee problems that forced him to cancel a six-day visit to Africa also planned for next month.
Francis is due to visit Canada to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses they suffered at Catholic-run residential schools.