Pope Francis has canceled a meeting with a Jewish delegation that was to be held on June 30, 2022, because of a flare up of his knee pain.
The Vatican press office announced the cancellation, which must have come after the Pope received an Orthodox delegation earlier in the day.
The pontiff left it to Cardinal Kurt Koch to welcome the members of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations. The Swiss cardinal is in charge of the Dicastery for Christian Unity and therefore in charge of relations with the Jewish world.
The Press Office noted, however, that the Pope gave a speech in the morning when he received the delegation sent by Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. However, the Pope’s speech was not broadcast in the Holy See Press Room – as is usually the case – which could indicate that the reception did not take place in the Apostolic Palace.
The Pope’s latest appearances
Since May, the Pope has been seen on numerous occasions in a wheelchair, as his doctor has asked him to limit movement to relieve his knee. However, the Pontiff has regularly replaced his wheelchair with a simple cane during his most recent public appearances.
This was the case on Saturday, June 25, during the Thanksgiving Mass of the World Meeting of Families in St. Peter’s Square. Taken to the altar in the popemobile, he walked a few steps to his chair but did not preside at the Mass, delegating that task to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.
More recently, on June 29, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, he arrived walking in St. Peter’s Basilica. The presidency of the Mass was once again entrusted to a substitute, this time to the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re.
After the handing over of the pallium to the archbishops, during which he remained seated as required by the rite, the Pontiff walked a few meters with difficulty to go and collect himself in front of the tomb of St. Peter with the members of the Orthodox delegation, already present. However, he left in a wheelchair. A Vatican source believes that the Pope may have overexerted his knee on this occasion.
“I have been able to walk for three days,” the Pope had told a group of bishops on June 27.
Canada on the horizon
With the cancellation of his July 2-6 trip to Africa, Pope Francis should have time to rest in the coming weeks, as his public appearances are traditionally very rare during the hot Roman summer, when most of Europe is on a reduced schedule.
Nevertheless, his progress will be scrutinized in view of the long trip to Canada from July 24 to 30. The organizers have announced that they have adapted the itinerary to the Pope’s reduced mobility.
The Pope has been taking his now long period of pain with good humor and spiritual insight.“But a bit of pain can be humbling, a blessing in disguise…” he’s said. During one audience, he said to pilgrims from Slovakia that he was offering up the “humiliation” for them.
On June 22, during the general audience, he offered this reflection:
The … passage is Jesus’ warning to Peter: When you were young you were self-sufficient, when you will be old, you will no longer be so much the master of yourself and your life.
You’re telling me; I have to go around in a wheelchair, eh? But that’s how it is, that’s life. With old age you get all these illnesses and we have to accept them as they come, don’t we? We don’t have the strength of youth!
And your witness, Jesus says, will also be accompanied by this weakness. You have to be a witness to Jesus even in weakness, illness, and death. There is a beautiful passage from Saint Ignatius of Loyola that says: “Just as in life, so also in death we must bear witness as disciples of Jesus.” The end of life must be a disciple’s end of life: of disciples of Jesus, because the Lord always speaks to us according to our age. The Evangelist adds his commentary, explaining that Jesus was alluding to the extreme witness, that of martyrdom and death.