ROME—Pope Francis’s decision to call off a long-planned trip to Africa on account of a problem with his knee, along with some events this summer, is stirring speculation that he is planning to retire.
Papal health has always been a concern at the Vatican, where the leader has traditionally ruled for life. But since Pope Benedict XVI became the first pope in modern times to step down—a decision that Pope Francis has praised as an example to future pontiffs—it has become even harder to predict the end of a pontificate. More than nine years after his resignation, retired Pope Benedict is still living in the Vatican, increasingly frail yet by the accounts of visitors mentally acute.
While still active, Pope Francis, 85, has been seen frequently in a wheelchair for more than a month, telling the Italian daily Corriere della Sera in late May that he was suffering from a torn ligament in his knee, for which he was receiving injections. He had to sit last Sunday through the Mass for Pentecost, a major church feast, delivering the homily from his wheelchair.
It wasn’t until Friday that the Vatican issued a statement on the matter, announcing that his trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, scheduled to begin in a little more than three weeks, had been indefinitely postponed.
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