The Vatican said on Friday that Pope Francis’ next trip to Africa has been cancelled due to the 85-year-old pontiff’s knee condition, raising worries about his capacity to walk for the remainder of his papacy.
At the request of the pope’s doctors, who have been treating him for a damaged ligament in his knee, the papal trip to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan from July 2-7 was cancelled “with regret.”
He has been confined to a wheelchair due to knee ailment for the past month, but he has remained active, meeting with the president of the European Commission on Friday.
Matteo Bruni, a spokesperson for the Vatican, stated that Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, would forego the trip “so as not to risk the results of the knee therapy he is having” and that it would take place “at a later period.”
According to insiders at the Vatican, the pope has been receiving numerous injections per week as well as physical treatment for the condition, and he had hoped to restore at least a portion of his walking capacity before the trip was scheduled to begin.
The unexpected announcement was made just two days after the Vatican disclosed the names of journalists whose petitions to accompany the pope on the papal plane were granted, and preparations were well underway in both nations.
The Vatican did not indicate if the pope’s intended trip to Canada from July 24 to 30 will be hampered by his knee condition.
Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005 after a 27-year pontificate, utilised wheeled platforms to navigate the aisles of St. Peter’s Basilica in his latter years, as Parkinson’s disease severely impaired his breathing and other bodily functions.
The highlight of the planned tour was supposed to be a stop in South Sudan from July 5 to 7, but the trip was repeatedly postponed due to security concerns.
South Sudan is primarily Christian, and Francis was to have accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on this portion of the tour.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, stated in a statement, “I am praying for my dear brother Pope Francis and I share his sorrow.”
South Sudan’s Catholic bishop, Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, told reporters in the capital city of Juba, “We are hoping that he would come when his health improves.”
In 2011, South Sudan achieved independence. In 2013, a civil war broke out in which 400 000 people were slaughtered. In 2018, the two major parties struck a peace agreement, although the country is still plagued by hunger and conflict.