Planning continues for papal visit to Canada in July

Pope Francis struggles to rise from his chair during the general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in this April 20, 2022, file photo. On his doctors' advice because of ongoing problems with his knee, the pope will not travel to Congo and South Sudan in early July, the Vatican announced June 10. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

Knee issues force African trip postponement for Pope Francis

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

(With files from Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service)

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – A delay in Pope Francis’ travel plans for South Sudan and Congo because of continuing problems with his knee is not slowing down the planning process for his apostolic journey to Canada July 24 to 29. Nor has uncertainty over Pope Francis’ fitness for travel diminished the desire of Indigenous people to see Francis on their lands confronting a dark past.

“The MNC (Metis National Council) hopes that the Pope can rest and be well enough to travel in time for his planned, and long-awaited, trip to Canada,” said MNC spokesperson Janna van de Sande in an email. “The Pope’s tour of our communities is deeply important for our survivors, their families and citizens. Our survivors have already waited too long to hear an apology directly from the Pope for the pain and suffering that the Catholic Church inflicted.”

“We understand that he (Pope Francis) has serious health concerns and remain hopeful that his visit to Canada will continue as planned,” Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami spokesperson Patricia D’Souza told The Catholic Register in an email.

The Vatican press office announced June 10 the Pope’s planned July 2-7 trip to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo had to be postponed to give Francis’ knee more time to heal.

Vatican press office director Matteo Bruni did not mention the Pope’s plans for Canada, though the surprise postponement of the Africa trip set off a flurry of speculation about prospects for Canada.

That hasn’t stalled the planning process for the Pope’s visit to Canada later in July, when he is expected to apologize for past wrongs of the Church upon Canada’s Indigenous people.

“At this time, we continue to move forward with our planning,” said Neil MacCarthy, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops communications lead on the trip.

Events with Pope Francis in Canada will be limited to provide opportunities for rest for the 85-year-old pontiff.

“Great care is being taken to provide significant periods of rest for the Holy Father,” said MacCarthy. “And also to ensure his participation at events is for a limited period of time.”

Pope Francis will typically be present for about an hour at any of the events scheduled for the five-day sojourn through Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit.

“You’re talking about two hours (ish) of public events daily,” said MacCarthy. “But there is also travel, etc. that goes on top of that.”

While an individual event might stretch over two or three hours with music and cultural presentations and public ceremonies, the Pope’s appearance within that event would be limited, he said.

Nor are these public appearances the extent of Pope Francis’ commitments during the trip. “We anticipate private meetings as well,” said MacCarthy.

Although Pope Francis has cancelled several events since mid-January and has begun using a wheelchair or a cane, the Vatican had continued to insist that he would make the two trips (to Africa and to Canada)  in July.

Hope remains steadfast in Canada.

“We continue to pray for the health of Pope Francis and that he will be able to join us in Canada next month,” MacCarthy said.