Pope Francis cancels appearances due to nerve pain

Pope Francis is once again canceling public appearances due to nerve pain.

Francis will not participate in three events over the coming days “due to a recurrence of sciatica,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement on Saturday.

The 84-year-old pope will go ahead with the Angelus blessing on Saturday, delivered from the Apostolic Library instead of a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square due to the virus resurgence. But he won’t say Mass in the Vatican Basilica on Sunday or a planned evening prayer at St. Paul’s Basilica to close out a week of prayer, and a meeting with the diplomatic corps to the Holy See set for Monday will be rescheduled, the Vatican said.

Nerve pain also forced the pope to skip New Year’s ceremonies in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The flareup of Francis’ sciatica raises questions about his planned March 3-8 trip to Iraq, a visit that some have questioned given the coronavirus pandemic.

Papal trips are grueling under any circumstance, with many appointments each day, long Masses and reception lines and multiple transfers via car and plane.

Francis has spoken openly about his sciatica in the past. It is a form of pain in the lower body caused by compression or irritation on nerve roots or on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower spine down the thigh.