Pope Francis waves as he addresses to the crowd during his Angelus prayer from the window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, on July 31, 2022. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

 

Pope Francis will visit Kazakhstan as planned in September for a religious congress, the Vatican confirmed on Monday, two days after the pontiff revealed he would ease his international schedule.

The 85-year-old has been suffering from knee pain that forced him to cancel a string of events in recent months, including a trip to Africa.

Returning from a six-day visit to Canada on Saturday, he admitted it was time to slow his pace of international travel and said he may have to think about retiring — but not yet.

“Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities, Pope Francis will make the announced Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan from September 13 to 15,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni wrote in a short statement.

He will visit the capital Nur-Sultan, for the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the Vatican said.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the pope said Kazakhstan would be “a quiet trip, without so much movement”.

Francis was elected in 2013 after pope Benedict XVI became the first pontiff since the Middle Ages to retire, citing his declining physical and mental health.

Asked on Saturday about whether he might follow Benedict’s example, the pope said: “The door is open. It’s one of the normal options but up until now I haven’t knocked on this door.

“But that doesn’t mean the day after tomorrow I don’t start thinking, right? But right now I honestly don’t.”

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