One of the factors that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI took into account in making his decision to resign was the proximity of an event that would require a physical effort he did not feel capable of: World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. This would be in July, and the German pope resigned in February, leaving enough time — according to his calculations — for the new pontiff to take on the commitments of Holy Week and the Easter season, and to prepare for the trip to Brazil.
In an interview granted to the newspaper La Repubblica in 2016, the pontiff emeritus assured that “after the experience of traveling to Mexico and Cuba, I no longer felt capable of making such a demanding trip. Moreover, with John Paul II’s approach to these days, the Pope’s physical presence was indispensable. One could not think of a television link or other forms guaranteed by technology. This was also a circumstance why resignation was a must for me.”
World Youth Day is a festival where young Catholics from all over the world gather in a particular city. The event was initiated by St John Paul II in 1986, and the most recent one was held in Panama in 2019.
Certainly, these are extremely demanding journeys in terms of agenda, with the Pope playing a leading role that requires considerable physical exertion.
The next WYD is scheduled for the first week of August 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. While millions of young people are doing activities to pay for his trip, the Roman Pontiff is in a worrying health situation.
The Pope’s knee has been causing him serious mobility problems. In a recent interview with Corriere della Sera, Francis admitted that he has torn ligaments in his right knee. After undergoing surgery, he has been seen for the first time in a wheelchair.
It is a fact that the Pope’s physical strength is declining and a demanding Day is approaching. It remains to be seen whether his reflection will be along the same lines as that of his predecessor, or whether, like St John Paul II, he will stay until the end “because Christ did not come down from the cross”. Both ways are correct and respectable.
Our best wishes for Pope Francis’ recovery.
This article originally appeared in El American’s newsletter on May 8, 2022. Subscribe for free here!