Pope Has 'Painful' Reason for Skipping New Year's Events

Francis' back pain due to sciatica will cause him to miss ceremonies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 31, 2020 9:30 AM CST
Pope's Aching Back to Keep Him From New Year's Events
In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, Pope Francis is helped by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza as he walks down the steps to exchange holiday greeting with Vatican employees in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, file)

Pope Francis is skipping ceremonies on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day due to what the Vatican says is a painful back condition, a spokesman said Thursday. Matteo Bruni said Francis is suffering from "painful sciatica" and won't preside at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening in St. Peter's Basilica. The pope also won't celebrate Mass on New Year's Day in the basilica for the same reason, the AP reports. 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. Francis has suffered from this problem in the past.

Despite the back pain, Bruni said Francis will deliver his scheduled New Year's blessing during an appearance at noon 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 instead of greeting faithful from a palace window overlooking the square. The Thursday evening Vespers service and the Friday Mass will go ahead but will be presided over by Vatican cardinals.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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