Pope Francis has cleared his schedule to undergo medical checks on his right knee

ROME — Pope Francis cleared his schedule Friday to undergo medical checks on his right knee, as his strained ligaments have made walking, standing and getting up from his chair increasingly difficult and painful.

The Vatican spokesman said Friday that Francis was undergoing medical checks within the city state, not at an external hospital.

Francis has had to cancel several appointments this year due to the ligament strain. After his recent visit to Malta, which saw him struggling to get out of his chair on several occasions, Francis said he thought it would get better.

He revealed that a few weeks prior, he couldn’t walk — an apparent reference to the rest ordered up by his doctors that forced the cancellation of a trip to Florence and Francis’ participation in an Ash Wednesday procession.

“We’ll see if I go back (to that),” he said. “There’s some doubt because at this age, you don’t know how it’ll end up. We’ll hope it turns out OK.”

Francis was hospitalized for 10 days last July to have 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large colon removed. He has said he has fully recovered. He also has long undergone regular sessions of physiotherapy to ease the sciatica nerve pain.

There had also been media reports that Francis would meet with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, in Jerusalem in June, presumably as an added-on leg to the Lebanon trip. But in an interview published Friday with Argentine daily La Nacion, Francis said the Vatican had suspended plans for the meeting. Kirill has seemingly endorsed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “metaphysical” battle against the West.

“Our diplomacy understood that a meeting between us at this time could create a lot of confusion,” Francis was quoted as saying.

Francis also dampened suggestions he might travel to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, saying he wouldn’t do anything that could complicate the greater good of ending the war or at least a creating a truce or humanitarian corridors. “What good would it do for the pope to go to Kyiv if the war continues the following day?” he asked.