Pope Francis will not lead the Vatican’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day celebrations due to sciatic pain, the Vatican said in a statement on Thursday.
This marks the first time the Pope has missed New Year’s Eve or Christmas celebrations, but not the first event he has skipped.
On February 27, Pope Francis, who is 84, canceled a scheduled mass for what the Vatican press office described as a “slight imposition,” denying rumors that the Pontiff could have contracted Covid-19.
He was later seen coughing, sneezing and speaking with a hoarse voice.
Pope Francis first revealed he had sciatica (herniation of spinal disk) during an inflight press conference while on a visit to Brazil in 2013.
“The worst thing that happened – excuse me – was an attack of sciatica – really! – that I had the first month, because I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt,” Francis said at the time, when asked what the worst part of being the Pope was. “Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!,” he added.
On August, 10, 2017, he announced he was able to deal with the condition. The Vatican later confirmed the Pope underwent treatment, including massages and injections twice a week to reduce the leg pain.
The Pope will be replaced by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, for Thursday afternoon’s year-end Vespers service and Mass on New Year’s Day will be celebrated by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. Pope Francis will still lead the Angelus prayer on Friday, as planned.