Pope Francis, 84, bows out of New Years Day Mass due to sciatica

Pope Francis, 84, is suffering with painful sciatica which has forced him to bow out of holding the Vatican prayer service tonight and New Year’s Day Mass

  • Spokesman Matteo Bruni said Pope won’t preside at service in St Peter’s Basilica 
  • He has suffered from the problem in the past but will deliver New Year’s blessing 
  • Sciatica can cause back and leg pain and is due to compression on nerve roots 

Pope Francis is suffering with painful sciatica which has forced him to skip the Vatican prayer service tonight, a spokesman said.

Matteo Bruni said Francis, 84, is suffering from the painful back condition and will not preside at a year-end prayer service on Thursday evening in St Peter’s Basilica.

The pope, who has suffered from the problem in the past, will also will not celebrate Mass on New Year’s Day in the basilica for the same reason. 

 Pope Francis, 84, pictured, is suffering with painful sciatica which has forced him to skip the Vatican prayer service tonight

Sciatica can cause back and leg pain and is due to compression on nerve roots or on the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower spine down the thigh.

Despite the back pain, Mr Bruni said Francis will deliver his scheduled New Year’s blessing during an appearance at noon on Friday in the library of the Apostolic Palace.

To discourage crowds in St Peter’s Square during a Covid-19 surge in Italy, Francis lately has moved his weekly and holiday blessing appearances to inside the Vatican.

This has been instead of greeting faithful from a palace window overlooking the square.

 Despite the back pain, Francis will deliver his scheduled New Year’s blessing during an appearance at noon on Friday

The Thursday evening Vespers service and the Friday Mass will go ahead but will be presided over by Vatican cardinals.

This comes after eleven members of the Swiss Guard, which protects the pope, contracted coronavirus, adding to fears over the pontiff’s health.  

The guards stand watch outside the Vatican and tend to accompany the pope to official events.

Pope Francis is particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 because of his age, weight and having lost part of one lung during a childhood illness. He is frequently monitored for the virus. 

A member of the Swiss Guard stands by as Francis (right) speaks to followers. Eleven members contracted the virus

The Italian government has decided to maintain a hard line on anti-virus restrictions over the holidays in a bid to prevent families from gathering in big groups. 

Public health officials have said inter-familial transmission was one of the biggest drivers of new infections in this second wave, which has killed over 25,000 people since October.

He canceled his weekly public general audiences a few weeks ago after infections started to surge, including a cluster of a dozen cases among the Swiss Guards. 

He now delivers his Wednesday catechism lessons from his library, as he also did during the height of the pandemic’s first wave when the Vatican was in full lockdown.

 The Pope canceled his weekly public general audiences a few weeks ago after infections started to surge, including a cluster of a dozen cases among the Swiss Guards (pictured)

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