(NewsGlobal.com)- Over the last several weeks, rumors have been swirling that the 85-year-old Pope Francis, who has been suffering from ongoing health problems, may soon retire.
In January, the pope was unable to descend the steps of the Vatican audience hall to greet pilgrims. Instead, a select group of pilgrims was brought up to the stage where he greeted them from his seat. At the time, the pope said he was suffering from knee problems that made walking and taking stairs painful.
By April the knee problems weren’t getting better and by May, Pope Francis began using a wheelchair in public.
Given his mobility issues, speculation grew that he may be considering stepping down. And when the pope called for the addition of 21 new cardinals, rumors that the pope was laying the groundwork for a possible conclave to elect a new pontiff began to swirl.
The suspicions only grew after the pope scheduled a trip to L’Aquila, Italy to visit the tomb of Celestine V, the hermit pope who resigned in 1294. Before he resigned, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis’ predecessor, also visited Celestine V’s tomb.
But according to Cardinal Óscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, there is no truth to the rumors that Pope Francis is planning to step down.
Maradiaga, who advises the pope within the Council of Cardinals told Spanish news outlet EFE that Pope Francis has never considered resigning and called the rumors “a cheap soap opera.”
The Cardinal suggested that the reports about a conclave were “fake news” perpetrated by media outlets in the United States where the pope faces “strong opposition.”
But it isn’t just American news outlets. Several Italian media outlets interviewed doctors who claimed the pope was resisting undergoing surgery to correct his knee pain. In late May, the pope reportedly said that he would rather resign than undergo surgery.