“Dear friends, with great regret, due to problems with my leg, I had to postpone my visit to your countries,” the 85-year-old pope said after his traditional Sunday prayer, delivered from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

“I really feel a great sadness to have had to postpone this trip, which means so much to me. I apologize. Let’s pray together that with God’s help and medical care, I can be with you as soon as possible. Let’s be hopeful?!” he said.

The Vatican announced on Friday the indefinite postponement of this trip scheduled for early July to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, the pope suffering from knee pain. This surprise announcement is likely to rekindle concerns about his state of health.

“Accepting the request of his doctors, and in order not to compromise the results of the knee therapies still in progress, the Holy Father, to his great regret, is forced to postpone his trip (…) to a later date which remains to be defined,” the director of the Holy See’s press service, Matteo Bruni, said in a statement.

In early April, during a two-day trip to Malta, the Holy Father appeared weakened by his joint problems and had to use a lifting platform to get on and off his plane.

And in May, Lebanon had already announced the postponement of the pope’s visit scheduled for June, citing “health reasons”. But this is the first time that the Vatican has announced the postponement of a trip abroad for such reasons.

Suffering from severe pain in his right knee, the Argentine pope, who has appeared in a wheelchair since the beginning of May, announced that he was undergoing infiltrations, injections of corticosteroid-based anti-inflammatories.

The sovereign pontiff also suffers from hip pain which makes him limp and underwent a delicate colon operation in July 2021.