The cancellation of the Pope's trip to Africa comes as a surprise: on the advice of the doctors, his painful knee should be rested. Rumors then circulated in the Vatican that Francis wanted to resign. However, observers believe that the Holy Father does not appear to be tired of his duties.
Pope Francis has canceled his planned trip to Africa for the time being due to persistent knee problems. "Upon the advice of his doctors and in order not to affect the results of his therapy, which he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has had to regretfully cancel his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, scheduled for the 2nd to July 7 was planned to be postponed to a later date," said Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni. The 85-year-old head of the Catholic Church has been in a wheelchair for some time due to a painful condition in his right knee. A trip to Lebanon scheduled for June was also put on hold again due to the Argentine's health problems. The Pope's visit to Canada at the end of July is also on the agenda.
With the trips to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, the pontiff would have drawn attention to two states that are characterized by violent conflicts, the misery of refugees and ongoing conflicts. While fighting has been going on for years in several Congolese provinces and relations with neighboring Rwanda are strained, South Sudan has not calmed down since gaining independence almost eleven years ago.
Francis' knee problems coupled with an appointment constellation at the end of August caused media speculation in the Vatican about a possible resignation of the pontiff. On August 27 he wants to appoint 21 new cardinals. A day later, Francis is scheduled to visit the Italian city of L'Aquila, where Pope Celestine V, the first on the See of Peter to resign in life, is buried. In the next two days, the plan is for all cardinals to come to the Vatican - as the Holy See announced - to talk about the new apostolic constitution. It has now been speculated that the Pope could announce his resignation at the end of August and then have all the cardinals in town for a conclave.
However, some observers consider this theory to be improbable and simply justify the choice of these dates with the fact that there are still few appointments in the church at the end of August and a meeting of churchmen is therefore easier and cheaper. In addition, Francis does not seem tired of office. Similar rumors surfaced when he had to undergo delicate bowel surgery in July 2021. When asked if, like his predecessor Pope Benedict, he might be thinking of resigning, Pope Francis said: "It hadn't even crossed my mind."
(This article was first published on Friday, June 10, 2022.)