BEIRUT ( Associated Press) — Due to health reasons, Pope Francis has postponed a visit to Lebanon planned for next month, a Lebanese cabinet minister said Monday.
Tourism Minister Walid Nassar did not specify the ailment, but the pope is known to be suffering from acute knee pain that has greatly reduced his mobility in recent months. He has recently appeared in public using a wheelchair.
Nassar had initially told the Al-Markazia news agency that Lebanon was awaiting an official statement from the Vatican on the matter, attributing any postponement strictly to health reasons.
He had stressed that the postponement of the visit, if it happens, will not be for long and that the preparations for the visit are proceeding as normal.
Later, he told the official National News Agency that Lebanon received a letter from the Vatican officially informing about the decision to postpone the scheduled visit, adding that a new date for the visit will be announced “as soon as it is determined.”
The visit, scheduled for mid-June, was announced by the Lebanese president’s office last month but never confirmed by the Vatican. Pope Francis has prayed especially for Lebanon and has said repeatedly that he plans to visit the small country dealing with an unprecedented economic collapse that began in October 2019.
Francis’ trip would be the first visit by a pope to the Mediterranean nation since 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI made a three-day visit to Lebanon.
Despite Francis’ knee problems, the Vatican confirmed his visit to Congo and South Sudan for early July, and the pope said he hopes to visit Canada later that month.