Ongoing Issue Leads Pope to Nix Africa Trip

Vatican said it was canceled on doctors' orders
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2022 11:55 AM CDT
Ongoing Issue Leads Pope to Nix Africa Trip
People drive past a banner welcoming Pope Francis to Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Moses Sawasawa)

(Newser) – Pope Francis canceled a planned July trip to Africa on doctors' orders because of ongoing knee problems, the Vatican said Friday, dashing hopes of the faithful there and raising further questions about the health and mobility problems of the 85-year-old pontiff. The Vatican said the July 2-7 trip to Congo and South Sudan would be rescheduled at a later date to be determined, the AP reports. "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 in a statement.

Francis has used a wheelchair for about a month due to strained ligaments in his right knee that have made walking and standing difficult and painful. He has refused so far to get surgery and has instead received injections, kept the knee as immobile as possible, and walked with a cane or the help of an aide. Questions had swirled for months about Francis' ability to negotiate the Africa journey, which would have been taxing for the pope even without the knee problems. Yet as recently as this week, plans were proceeding for the trip, with the Vatican releasing the names of accredited journalists who were due to fly on the papal plane.

Francis had been due to visit South Sudan with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Church of Scotland to make a joint ecumenical appeal for peace. Such a trip had been discussed as early as 2017, but security concerns kept postponing it. The Rev. John Gbemyoro, an official with the Sudan/South Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, says Friday's news dimmed the expectations of Christians in the two countries. "We don't love to hear it," Gbemyoro says. "But we are asking God to heal him quickly because we still need him to come to South Sudan." (Rumors are swirling about possible retirement plans.)

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