The pontiff issued an apology to the two countries he was supposed to visit in the first week of July.
On Sunday, Pope Francis announced that his Africa trip will no longer push through due to his health issues. The Vatican said that the trip to Africa had been canceled because of the 89 year old pope's knee ailment, which raises concerns on whether he will be able to walk during the rest of his papacy.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Pope Francis' doctors, who have been treating the pontiff for a torn ligament in his knee, requested to have the Africa trip canceled. Pope Francis accepted the request "with regret," issuing an apology to Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which he was set to visit from July 2 to 7. He has been using a wheelchair for the last month but maintained his commitments, including a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday.
Pope Postpones Africa Trip to Focus on Health
Matteo Bruni, who serves as a Vatican spokesman said that Pope Francis is postponing the Africa trip "in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee". Bruni confirmed that the Africa trip will be scheduled at "a later date to be determined." According to sources at the Vatican, Pope Francis has been receiving several injections and undergoing physical therapy as part of his treatment. He had been hoping to be able to regain his ability to walk before his Africa trip, but was forced to cancel amid health issues.
"I feel great regret that I had to postpone this trip, which I am still very keen to make," Pope Francis told thousands of people in St. Peter's Square during his address on Sunday, as per Reuters. ""I ask you to pardon me for this. Let us pray together that with the help of God and with medical treatment, I can come to you as soon as possible. We are hopeful."
Pope Francis, who simply referred to his health issues as "problems with my leg," also suffers from sciatica, which caused him to limp well before his knee problems intensified. The pontiff is believed to be against surgery because of previous problems with general anesthesia after his operation last year, when a part of his intestine was removed.
Pope Francis' Health Issues Becoming a Concern
The cancellation of Pope Francis' Africa trip comes just two days after the Vatican announced the names of journalists who were approved to join the pontiff on the papal plane. Moreover, preparations in both Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan have been well underway.
But under normal circumstances, the Africa trip would still have been challenging for Pope Francis, as it would require five flights and three Masses, which would see him on his feet for long periods of time. The pontiff was also set to make more than a dozen addresses and meet political leaders and Church groups.
This is not the first time Pope Francis' health issues have impacted his papal travels. In February, the pontiff was forced to cancel his visit to Florence based on medical advice to rest to address his acute knee pain, The Florentine reported. In April, he proceeded with his trip to Malta, but required a freight lift to board and get off airplanes due to his knee problems. The pope is set to travel next to Canada from July 24 to 30.