After first using a platform lift to board the papal plane, Pope Francis has shown signs that his health is not 100%, which could make it difficult for him to travel. He suffers from sciatic neuralgia, a condition that causes severe pain in his legs.
On Wednesday (6), the Ukrainian government asked him to visit Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, because it “may affect the course of the war”, according to, andriy YermakChief of Staff to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
“My health is a little capricious. I have this knee problem that makes it difficult for me to walk. It’s a little annoying, but it’s getting better, at least I can walk, a week ago I couldn’t do that”, said Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, of 85 years.
He also confided that he can improve from the pain on the hip and knee, but “at this age we don’t know how the game will end”. “We hope it goes well,” he said as he made his way from Rome to Malta.
The Catholic Church leader has been complaining of knee pain for a few weeks now, even holding events sitting all the time. The health problem was reported by the cleric at a general audience in January, when he was visibly limping.
In February had to cancel a trip to Florence, and did not attend the Ash Wednesday services due to a serious inflammation of the right knee.
trip to Kiev
The invitation to visit Ukraine and mediate in the negotiations was reinforced after the pope displayed a Ukrainian flag from the city of Bucha, near Kiev, where there was a massacre, and received Ukrainian children at the Vatican. The war has reached its 42nd day.
According to Francisco, a possible trip was “on the table”, but without a date.
He also stated that war makes his heart ache to the point where he sometimes forgets the pain in his knees.
In recent days, he lamented the “impotence of international organizations” in the face of the conflict and called for “shared” responses to the “migratory emergency” aggravated by the war.
“Some powerful, sadly trapped in the anachronistic pretensions of nationalist interests, provokes and foments conflicts”, he said, in an unmistakable allusion to Russian President Vladimir Putin, although without naming any name.
He also denounced the “seductions of autocracy and the new imperialisms”, which pose the risk of an “extended Cold War, which can suffocate the lives of entire peoples and generations”.
Malta trip and plans for Lebanon
To board the plane bound for Malta, Francis had to take a wheelchair lift. According to a Vatican spokesperson, the measure was aimed at “avoiding unnecessary efforts”.
But in the country, he went by boat to Gozo (north), one of the three inhabited local islands, where he presided over a prayer at the national shrine of Ta’Pinu in front of more than 2,000 people.
Then he left for a mass in Floriana, near the capital Valletta, after a visit to the São Paulo Grotto. He also visited a migration center.
Another trip is planned to take place in June. He must travel to Lebanon, a country affected by an unprecedented economic crisis.
“The Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Joseph Spiteri, informed the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, that Pope Francis will go to Lebanon in June”, for a much awaited visit by the Lebanese people, indicated the country’s presidency.
The precise date and program of the visit will be communicated later. The Vatican has not confirmed the trip, but usually does so when the date of the visit is closer. (With international agencies)