Rumors about Pope Francis‘ health condition have resurfaced after the Vatican announced Friday he would not be going on a scheduled trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan this July.
“At the request of his doctors, and in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy that he is undergoing for his knee, the Holy Father has been forced to postpone, with regret, his Apostolic Journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and to South Sudan, planned for 2 to 7 July, to a later date to be determined,” said Matteo Bruni, the director of the Holy See Press Office, in a statement.
The 85-year-old has been using a wheelchair at recent events due to a knee problem. In July 2021, he underwent intestinal surgery, which kept him in the hospital for 10 days.
With growing rumors about the pope’s continued illness, there is speculation that he may be ready to resign.
The concerns escalated when an announcement was made that the pope will travel to L’Aquila in central Italy in late August, just like some previous popes who have retired.
There are no hard rules put in place for such an occurrence. But, in case the pope resigns, cardinals will gather together to name a successor.
The latest pope to resign was Benedict XVI, who left the Holy See on February 28, 2013. He was the first pontiff to resign in around 600 years, which came due to concerns over his health.
At the time, the Vatican indicated that Benedict XVI would keep the honorific title of “His Holiness” following the abdication and that he would be known as “pope emeritus.”
It is unclear whether this would apply to Pope Francis should he choose to retire.
Thirteen days after his official resignation, on March 13, 2013, the College of Cardinals officially elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who became Pope Francis, as head of the Catholic Church.
Currently, there is no official word on whether the pope will resign.
“It’s very odd to have a consistory in August, there’s no reason that he needs to call this [event] three months in advance and then go to L’Aquila in the middle of it,” Robert Mickens, editor of the English edition of La Croix, a Catholic daily newspaper, has stated.