Minister: Pope postpones visit to Lebanon for health reasons

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BEIRUT (AP) — Pope Francis has postpone a planned visit to Lebanon next month due to health reasons, a Lebanese Cabinet minister said Monday.

Minister of Tourism Walid Nassar did not specify the ailment, but the pope is known to be suffering acute knee pain that has greatly curtailed his mobility in recent months. He has recently appeared in public using a wheelchair.

Nassar initially told the Al-Markazia news agency that Lebanon was awaiting an official statement from the Vatican in this regard, attributing any postponement strictly to health reasons. He said postponement of the visit, if it occurs, will not be for a long time and that preparations for the visit were going ahead normally.

He later told the official National News Agency that Lebanon has received a letter from the Vatican officially informing it of 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, planned for mid-June, was announced by the Lebanese president’s office last month but was never confirmed by the Vatican. Francis has held special prayers for Lebanon and has repeatedly said he plans to visit the small country experiencing an unprecedented economic meltdown began in October 2019.

Francis’ trip would be the first visit by a pope to the Mediterranean nation since 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI paid a three-day visit to Lebanon.

Despite Francis’ knee problems, the Vatican has confirmed his visit to Congo and South Sudan in early July, and Francis has said he hopes to visit Canada later that month.