Pope Francis Says Homosexuality Is Not a Crime, but Is a Sin

The pope also has problems with sciatica, a chronic nerve condition that causes, back, hip and leg pain, and makes him walk with a limp. Flare-ups of that condition have forced him to cancel or modify high-profile appearances.

These setbacks, combined with his age, have fueled speculation that Francis might follow in the steps of his predecessor and step down. Benedict XVI, who died last month, retired in 2013, the first pope in 600 years to do so.

Francis has said in past interviews that he has never ruled out retirement, though he had no immediate plans to do so, but he told The Associated Press that he had not considered drafting norms – as some cardinals and canon lawyers have suggested – to “regularize or regulate” papal resignations in the future, saying that Benedict’s gesture did not set sufficient precedent. Other popes might handle retirement differently, he said.

He was frank in his negative assessment of the reforms being mulled by the German church, which include married priests, female deacons, and church blessings for same-sex couples. He warned that the so-called “Synodal Path,” which has involved dialogue between the German bishops and a lay organization known as the Central Committee of German Catholics, risked becoming dideological.

“Here the danger is that something very, very ideological trickles in. When ideology gets involved in church processes, the Holy Spirit goes home, because ideology overcomes the Holy Spirit,” Francis said.

Francis also addressed the wave of criticism from cardinals and bishops to his papacy that only intensified after Benedict’s death on Dec. 31, describing it like an unpleasant “rash that bothers you a bit.” But he said that it was important that his critics were able to speak freely.

“If it’s not like this, there would be a dictatorship of distance, as I call it, where the emperor is there and no one can tell him anything,” Francis said. “Criticism helps you to grow and improve things.”


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