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Pope cancels visit to Congo and South Sudan, citing health issues

Pope Francis announced in a video message released Saturday that he was canceling a planned trip to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) due to severe knee pain, Vatican News reported.

The pope has been publicly using a wheelchair for the past two months. Vatican observers have pointed to the pope's health issues, his visit to the tomb of the medieval Pope Celestine V, and his appointment of new cardinals as signs that the pontiff may be preparing to resign.

"My dear Congolese and South Sudanese friends, words at this time are not enough to convey the closeness I would like to express to you and the affection I feel for you. I would like to say to you: do not let hope be stolen from you!" Francis said in the video.

Following the pope's announcement, the Rev. Iain Greenshields — the moderator of the Church of Scotland's General Assembly — and Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby also pulled out of the trip. "I am deeply sorry not to be making our planned pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan next week with my brothers," Welby tweeted, while Greenshields said the trip had been merely "postponed."