By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Pope Francis is planning to visit Congo and South Sudan in July, the Vatican announced Thursday, fulfilling a wish to minister to the faithful in the conflict-ridden countries.
Francis is scheduled to visit the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, and the city of Goma on July 2-5, and plans to be in Juba, South Sudan, on July 5-7, the Vatican said.
The trip would be one of Francis’ longest in years and his third to sub-Saharan Africa.
He visited Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic in 2015 and Mozambique, Mauritius and Madagascar in 2019. Francis also visited Egypt in 2017.
The trip will certainly test the 85-year-old pontiff’s stamina and mobility. He had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine removed and spent 10 days in the hospital last July. This week, the pope canceled two events because of acute pain in his knee that makes walking and standing painful.
Francis, who has long suffered from sciatica nerve pain, has said he strained a ligament in his right knee. The Vatican explained his cancellation of a day trip to Florence and his absence from Ash Wednesday services by saying his doctors had prescribed a period of rest to allow the knee to heal.
Francis has wanted to visit South Sudan for years, but security concerns prevented him from going there, including for a joint visit with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In 2019, the pope invited South Sudan’s rival leaders to the Vatican for an Easter summit, stunning onlookers when he knelt down and kissed their feet in a humble plea for peace.