By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Pope Francis on Sunday apologised to the people of Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan for having to cancel his visit because of walking problems, and said he was hopeful his condition would improve, a Reuters report says.
The Vatican on Thursday announced that the July 2-7 trip had been postponed indefinitely.
This is not unconnected with the 85-year-old pontiff’s knee ailment, which has forced him to use a wheelchair for more than a month.
“I feel great regret that I had to postpone this trip, which I am still very keen to make,” he said at his Sunday address before thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“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,” he said, while addressing the people and authorities of both countries.
The Vatican said on Thursday that the trip was postponed “in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee”.
On Sunday, he referred to his ailment, which is believed to be a torn ligament, as “problems with my leg”. Francis also suffers from sciatica, which caused him to limp even before the flare-up of the knee problem.
There are speculations that the pope is against surgery because of problems with general anaesthesia following an operation to remove part of his intestine a year ago.
The pope is still scheduled to visit Canada from July 24-30.
He also urged his listeners not to become accustomed to the war in Ukraine. “Let us not allow the passing of time to dull our pain and our concern for those martyred people,” he said.
According to the schedule for the trip which was announced by The Vatican in March, the pontiff was to visit the DRC capital, Kinshasa, as well as Goma, the main town in the restive eastern province of North Kivu.
He was then to head to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
South Sudan, the world’s newest country, has suffered from chronic instability since independence in 2011, including a brutal five-year civil war.