The Vatican announced on Friday that Pope Francis has cancelled his planned trip to Africa in July with reasons connected to his knee issues, raising bigger concerns about the 85-year-old pontiff’s health and mobility, should he travel.
The pope also postponed two events earlier this year in February due to significant knee discomfort that makes walking and standing difficult. Overtime, the pontiff’s health has been deteriorating, especially after having 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his big intestine removed last year.
The 85-year-old prelate appeared in a fragile posture at a hearing on May 4 in Place Saint-Pierre, leaning on two protocol members to get up and stroll on their arm. A tweet captioned with “let us pray for Pope Francis whose health and knee are worrying!” confirmed this with a video.
His trip to Congo and South Sudan, intended for July 2-7, will not hold until a later date to be determined, according to the Vatican. The purpose of the trip was to promote peace in two African countries that have been plagued by violent violence for a long time.
“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that 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.
According to AP, the Pope has been in a wheelchair for a month due to torn ligaments in his right knee. He has however resisted surgery so far, opting instead for injections, keeping the knee as still as possible, and walking with a cane or with the assistance of a caregiver.
In spite of the pain, he has attempted to maintain some of his activities, including a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, in Rome. The meeting was centered around the war in Ukraine.
“We are optimistic he will come when his health improves,” South Sudan’s Catholic bishop, Stephen Ameyu Martin Mulla, told reporters in the capital, Juba.
Although the Pope also has a trip to Canada scheduled for July 24-30, the Vatican has made no statement if it would also be hindered by his knee problem.