VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis canceled a planned trip to Africa in July on a doctor’s prescription due to persistent knee problems, the Vatican said on Friday, raising further questions about the 85-year-old pope’s health and mobility issues.
The Vatican said the July 2-7 trip to Congo and South Sudan would be moved to a date to be determined.
“At the request of his doctors and in order not to jeopardize 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 South Sudan. the Vatican said in a statement.
Francis has been using a wheelchair for about a month because of strained ligaments in his right knee that made walking and standing difficult and painful. He has also received injections, kept the knee as immobile as possible and walked with a cane or with the help of an assistant if necessary.
However, this week there were plans for the trip to the two African countries, with the Vatican releasing the names of accredited journalists who would fly on the papal plane.
But questions have been raising for months about Francis’ ability to negotiate the trip, which would have put a strain on the Pope even without knee problems.
Francis has also scheduled a July 24-30 visit to Canada; the Vatican statement said nothing about that trip, and spokesman Matteo Bruni would only say that the Pope’s other pledges were confirmed.
The pope has told friends he doesn’t want to undergo knee surgery, allegedly because of his response to anesthesia when he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his colon removed in July 2021.
There has been speculation about the future of the pontificate due to Francis’ knee problems, his decision to create 16 new cardinals of voting age and his plans to pay tribute in August to a 13th-century pope who stepped down, Celestine V.
But Francis has not indicated that he wants or intends to resign. Vatican observers say a papal resignation would now be unthinkable, as Francis’ predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 95, is still alive.
Alessandra Tarantino contributed.