After 10 years in office, Pope says he hopes to travel to Mongolia

ROME, Italy: Pope Francis has told reporters that he hoped to travel to Mongolia in September despite his knee ailment, the first ever trip by a pope to the Asian country.

"On September 29 I will go to Marseille and from there I will fly to Mongolia, but that is not yet certain, there is a possibility," he said.

The trip to Mongolia came as a surprise to reporters.

Speaking of his health, Francis, who became pope nearly 10 years ago, said "You know that weeds never die. It (his health) is not like it was at the start of the pontificate, that is true. This knee is bothersome but it moves ahead slowly. Then we will see."

Last August, Francis named Archbishop Giorgio Marengo, an Italian, the first cardinal to be based in Mongolia, where he is the Catholic Church’s administrator.

The country has fewer than 1,500 Catholics, but is strategically significant because it borders with China, where the Vatican is trying to improve the situation of Catholics in the communist country.