VATICAN CITY (AP) â€” Pope Francis is skipping New Yearâ€™s ceremonies due to what the Vatican says is a painful back condition, a spokesman said Thursday.
Matteo Bruni said Francis is suffering from â€œpainful sciaticaâ€ and wonâ€™t preside at a year-end prayer service Thursday evening in St. Peterâ€™s Basilica. The pope also wonâ€™t celebrate Mass on New Yearâ€™s Day in the basilica for the same reason.
Francis has suffered from the problem in the past. 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, Bruni said Francis will deliver his scheduled New Yearâ€™s blessing during an appearance at noon Friday in the library of the Apostolic Palace.
To discourage crowds in St. Peterâ€™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.
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