The Vatican said the pope would take a helicopter back to the Vatican that night and fly to Matera the following morning to meet with refugees and to close out a Eucharistic conference of the Italian Catholic Church. The city in southern Basilicata is a popular tourist destination, famous for its cave dwellings.
As bishop of Rome, Francis is technically head of the Italian church. One of his proteges, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, recently became head of the Italian bishops’ conference.
Francis, 85, was grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic and had to scrap a spring visit to Florence and a planned trip this week to Congo and South Sudan because of knee pain that make walking and standing difficult. He now gets around with a cane or wheelchair.
The Vatican has said he is going ahead with plans to visit Canada later this month and has a day trip to the central Italian city of l’Aquila scheduled for late August.