Pope trip to Luxembourg, Belgium confirmed for September, 2 weeks after challenging Asia visit

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis has added a stop in Luxembourg to a trip to Belgium in September, a three-day visit that will come as he is recovering from a much longer and challenging trip to Asia.

The Vatican on Monday announced the Sept. 26-29 dates of the planned trip, saying Francis would first stop in Luxembourg and then travel onto Brussels, Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium.

Belgium’s bishops had previously announced that Francis was coming to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the country’s two main Catholic universities. Francis’ stop in Luxembourg is apparently something of a nod to Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Jesuit archbishop of Luxembourg who is playing a major role in Francis’ big synod, a years-long reform project for the Catholic Church.

The Luxembourg and Belgium visit is scheduled to begin less than two weeks after Francis returns from the longest and most challenging foreign trip of his pontificate, a Sept. 2-13 voyage to Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.

The 87-year-old pope, who has been using a wheelchair for about two years, has had several health problems, including abdominal surgeries and bouts of bronchitis all winter that made it difficult for him to read aloud his speeches.

He appears to have recovered well with the arrival of spring. He was in robust form this past weekend when he spent the day visiting the northern Italian city of Verona.