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Pope Francis denied rumors that he will soon step down and explained that he expects to visit Canada this month and hopes to travel to Moscow and Kiev later.

The media have suggested that a series of events in late August, including meetings with cardinals from around the world to discuss a new Vatican constitution and a visit to the Italian city of L’Aquila, could mark his resignation in the near future.

Pope Francis greets and blesses the children assisted by the Vatican’s Santa Marta Pediatric Dispensary in the Paul VI Hall.
(Stefano Costantino / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

L’Aquila is associated with Pope Celestine V, who resigned in 1294. Pope Benedict XVI visited the city four years before his resignation in 2013.

“All these coincidences have made some think that the same ‘liturgy’ would happen,” Francis said in a recent interview with Reuters. “But it never occurred to me. Not for the moment, no for the moment. Really!”

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But Francis said, as he has already done several times, that one day he could resign if poor health made it impossible for him to lead the Church.

When asked when he believed such a moment would arise, he said, “We don’t know. God will tell.”

Francis also addressed the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. He said there was a communication between Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about a potential trip to Moscow.

No pope has ever paid a visit to Moscow and Francis has repeatedly criticized Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Last week, Francis accused Moscow of waging a “cruel and senseless war of aggression” against his neighbor.

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Pope Francis addresses reporters on his flight back to Rome after a two-day visit to Fatima, Portugal on May 13, 2017.

Pope Francis addresses reporters on his flight back to Rome after a two-day visit to Fatima, Portugal on May 13, 2017.
(AP)

The Vatican had initially asked for a visit several months ago, but according to Francis, Moscow said it was not the right time.

However, Francis suggested that a trip might be more likely now.

“I would like to go [to Ukraine]and first I wanted to go to Moscow, “he said.” We exchanged messages about this because I thought that if the Russian president had given me a little window to serve the cause of peace … “

“And now it is possible, after returning from Canada, it is possible that he will be able to go to Ukraine,” he continued. “The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.”

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Pope Francis leaves after a meeting with young people in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday 20 September 2015.

Pope Francis leaves after a meeting with young people in Havana, Cuba, on Sunday 20 September 2015.
(Photo AP / Ramon Espinosa)

Francis also addressed the recent US Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. He said he respected the court’s decision but didn’t know enough to talk about the legal side of the controversial matter.

He strongly condemned abortion, comparing it to “hiring a hitman”.

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“I ask: is it legitimate, is it right to eliminate a human life to solve a problem?” He said.

The teachings of the Catholic Church state that life begins from the moment of conception.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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