Pope Francis is forced to cancel his trip to DRC and South Sudan for health reasons

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now 85, has reported his visit due to a knee pain. This surprise announcement risks rekindling concerns about his state of health.


The Vatican announced, Friday, June 10 in the middle of the day, the postponement “on a later date which remains to be defined” of the trip Francis was to make in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan, From July 2 to 7. The pontiff has accessed “the request of his doctors, so as not to compromise the results of the knee therapies still in progress,” said the brief press release published by the director of the press room, Matteo Bruni. This unusual decision nourishes questions concerning the state of health of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now 85 years old.

The Holy See had already postponed the visit initially planned in mid-June to Lebanon. But this first planning of the Pontiff’s timetable had been done further upstream, before the Vatican officially announced the travel program. This time, it’s different: the details of his stay in Kinshasa, Goma and Juba had been made public and the journalists’ accreditation procedure was completed.

Africa, “victim” of “of” exploitation by other powers “

The Pope was holding this trip to a continent that he only discovered after his election in 2013, in an Africa which he considers as “a martyrdom”, “a victim” of “exploitation by other powers “. In the DRC as in South Sudan, he wanted to support political “reconciliation” processes, after years of civil wars. The press release suggests that his doctors hardly left him. He does not say anything, on the other hand, of the trip to Canada scheduled for July 24 to 30, during which the Pope should renew his apologies for violence perpetrated for decades in Catholic residential schools for Aboriginal people.

This impediment of walking is added to the consequences of an important colon operation suffered a year ago, officially due to diverticulitis. Even before that, the Pope had recognized that travel tired him more than before. After two years without travel, due to the pandemic of Cavid-19, he had spontaneously declared, returning from Iraq, in March 2021: “I admit that during this trip, I was much more tired than during the Others. 84 [years] do not arrive on its own! “

Questions on the continuation of the pontificate

The steep decision to report sine die the visit to the DRC and South Sudan can only strengthen the questions about the suite of the pontificate. Pope Francis has always said that he did not exclude giving up his function if he could no longer fulfill it satisfactorily. He relies in this on the example of his predecessor, Benoît XVI, who, according to him, introduced a lasting possibility by renouncing his pontificate, on February 11, 2013.

Faced with his opponents and all those who are now waiting for the next pontificate, the Argentine Pope’s room for maneuver risks being affected by this forced confession of weakening. Even though a process of reflection on synodality (the mode of governance in the Catholic Church), at the heart of François’ reforms, is entering its final phase, with the holding of a synod of the bishops planned in Rome at the ‘Fall 2023.

/Media reports.