Pope Francis to Skip New Year Services Because of Leg Condition

ROME — The Vatican said on Thursday that Pope Francis would not be leading New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day services in St. Peter’s Basilica because of a flare-up in a condition that causes back and leg pain.

A Vatican spokesman, Matteo Bruni, said in a statement that Francis was suffering from “painful sciatica,” and would skip both the traditional end-of-year celebration on Thursday evening, as well as Mass on Friday. But he said that the pope would lead the traditional Angelus prayer and address from the Apostolic Library at noon on Friday.

The two main services will be led by other Vatican officials.

Francis first revealed that he suffered from sciatica in 2013, four months into his pontificate, telling reporters that it was the worst thing that had happened to him in his early days as pope. “I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt,” he said at the time. “Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!”

An Italian Catholic newsmagazine reported in 2017 that the pope had been receiving massages and injections for the condition. The Vatican did not confirm the reports at the time.

The pope has been delivering his addresses from the apostolic palace during the end-of-year holidays as Italy is on lockdown and movement is restricted. Traditionally, the faithful would flock to St. Peter’s Basilica and the square in front of it for the services and the Angelus prayer.

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