VATICAN CITY –
Pope Francis has canceled a planned July trip to Africa on the orders of doctors due to persistent knee problems, the Vatican announced on Friday, raising new questions about the 85-year-old pontiff’s health and mobility issues.
The Vatican said the July 2-7 trip to Congo and South Sudan would be postponed “to a later date to be determined.”
“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to compromise the results of the therapy he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan,” the Vatican said in a statement.
Francis used a wheelchair for about a month due to strained ligaments in his right knee that made walking and standing difficult and painful. He also received injections, kept the knee as still as possible, and walked with a cane or the help of an assistant, if necessary.
As recently as this week, however, plans were underway for the trip to the two African countries, with the Vatican releasing the names of accredited journalists who were to fly on the papal plane.
But questions have swirled for months about Francis’ ability to negotiate the trip, which would have been taxing for the pope even without the knee issues.
Francis has also planned a visit to Canada for July 24-30; the Vatican statement said nothing about that trip, and spokesman Matteo Bruni said only that the pope’s other commitments were confirmed.
The pope has told friends he doesn’t want to have knee surgery, reportedly because of his reaction to anesthesia when he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) removed from his large intestine in July 2021.
Speculation has swirled about the future of the pontificate due to Francis’ knee problems, his decision to create 16 new voting-age cardinals and his intention to pay tribute in August to a resigned 13th-century pope, Celestine V.
But Francis has given no indication that he wants or plans to step down. Vatican watchers say a papal resignation now would be unthinkable given that Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 95, is still alive.
Alessandra Tarantino contributed to it.