Pope Francis has canceled three public appearances this week due to a recurrence of his sciatica— a severe nerve pain that struck him at the end of 2020.
On Saturday, January 23, the Holy See Press Office announced that the 84-year-old Pope Francis would not be able to celebrate the January 24 Mass marking the Sunday of the Word of God in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Due to recurrent sciatica, tomorrow morning’s celebration at the Altar of the Cathedral in the Vatican Basilica will not be presided over by the Holy Father,” the press office wrote.
The January 24 Mass was celebrated instead by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
More Events Canceled
In the same letter, the Holy See Press Office announced that the Pope’s annual “state of the world” address, which was initially scheduled for January 25, will now be moved to a later date. (Read: Catholics in Iraq Begin Prayers for Pope Francis’s Visit)
They also confirmed that the Pope has canceled his January 25 appearance at vespers for the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and assigned Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to take his place instead.
The recent cancellations prompted concerns about the Pope’s welfare and his scheduled flight to Iraq in March this year. While many are excited to see the Pope going on international visits once again, plans for apostolic tours are still indefinite given the Pope’s health condition and the ongoing restrictions on mass gatherings across different countries.
In the final days of December 2020, Pope Francis had a bout of sciatic pain that forced him to cancel his appearance at the Vatican’s liturgies on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Sciatica, a painful condition caused by pressure or rubbing on the sciatic nerve, is usually felt in the lower back and runs down the back of the thigh and leg to the foot. Its common symptoms include shooting pains in the back of the legs. (Read: PWD Painter Shares His Daily Hustle Amid the Pandemic)
In July 2013, during an in-flight press conference from Brazil, Pope Francis shared his years of suffering due to sciatica. “Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!” the Pope said.