Pope Francis will sit the ceremonies out this year due to sciatica, a back condition he's dealt with for years

By Rachel DeSantis
December 31, 2020 10:49 AM
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Pope Francis
| Credit: Vatican Pool - Corbis/Getty

Pope Francis will not take part in the Vatican’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day ceremonies this year while he tends to a “painful” back condition.

Francis, 84, announced on Thursday that he will be sidelined from both the year-end prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica on New Year’s Eve and Mass on New Year’s Day, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said, per the Associated Press.

Bruni said Francis was suffering from “painful sciatica,” something he has dealt with in the past, but would still deliver his scheduled New Year’s blessing in the library of the Apostolic Palace at noon on Friday.

Sciatica is a painful condition that occurs when a herniated disk, a bone spur on the spine or a narrowing of the spine compresses part of the sciatic nerve, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can causes inflammation, pain and sometimes numbness through the lower back and down to the hips and legs.

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Francis first revealed his condition in 2013, according to The New York Times.

“I was sitting in an armchair to do interviews and it hurt. Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!” he reportedly said at the time.

Four years later, he announced he’d found a way to “deal with the condition,” and the Vatican later confirmed he’d undergone treatment, including massages and twice-weekly injections, CNN reported.

The two main services on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will reportedly be led by other Vatican officials.