The Vatican announced on June 10 that the pope’s trip to Africa, originally scheduled for July 2-7, had to be postponed at the request of his doctors “in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee.”
The 85-year-old has been suffering from an inflamed ligament in his knee, limiting his ability to walk. He has been using a wheelchair and a walking cane during public appearances since the first week of May.
“The Lord knows how greatly disappointed I am to have had to postpone this long awaited and much-desired visit. But we remain confident and hopeful that we shall be able to meet as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would like to tell you that, particularly in these weeks, you have been that much closer to my heart. I carry within me, in prayer, the pain that you have endured for all too long,” Pope Francis said.
“I think of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the exploitation, violence and insecurity from which it suffers, particularly in the east of the country, where armed conflicts continue to cause much intense suffering, aggravated by the indifference and the convenience of many.”
“I think of South Sudan and the plea for peace arising from its people who, weary of violence and poverty, await concrete results from the process of national reconciliation.”
Pope Francis said that he would like to contribute to the peace process by making an ecumenical pilgrimage in the future with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin is currently visiting Democratic Republic of Congo this week as a representative of the pope for a July 1-8 trip that will also include a visit to South Sudan.
The cardinal will preside over the pope’s scheduled Masses in Kinshasa on July 3 and in Juba on July 7.
In his video message, Pope Francis said: “There is one other thing that I would say to you: the tears that you shed on earth and the prayers that you raise to heaven are not in vain. The consolation of God will come, because he has ‘plans of peace and not of woe’ (Jeremiah 29:11). Even now, as I look forward to meeting you, I ask that God’s peace fill your hearts.”
“As I await the opportunity to see your faces, to feel at home in your lively Christian communities, to embrace all of you with my presence and to bless your lands, my prayers and my affection for you and your peoples, become all the more intense. I send you my heartfelt blessing and I ask all of you, please, to continue to pray for me.”