The 'painful sciatica' that has plagued the Pope already since the beginning of his pontificate seems to have flared up.
“My leg hurts and today it hurts to stand,” Pope Francis said at the beginning of an audience with the Holy Land Magazine delegation on January 17, 2022. The Pontiff, who chose to read his speech sitting down, apologized to his guests for not standing: “This way it’s better for me.”
Pope Francis regularly suffers from hip problems and shows some difficulty in walking. In 2015, on the occasion of the Pope’s trip to the United States, his spokesman assured that the Pontiff benefits from “regular physiotherapy” sessions because of problems in his legs.
The Holy Father’s sometimes quite notable limp is due to sciatica, a condition usually caused by compression of a nerve in the back. Sciatica usually causes intense pain in the back and one leg, and already in the first year of his papacy, the Pope spoke about it giving him trouble. “Sciatica is very painful, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!” he said, returning from the World Youth Day in Brazil.
The ailment seems to have particularly affected the 85-year-old Pope in the last couple years: on December 31, 2020, the Holy See announced that Francis wouldn’t preside over the ceremonies of December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021 because of “painful sciatica.” Subsequently, the Pontiff postponed or cancelled several official appointments.
A few weeks ago, Pope Francis once again delegated the presidency of the celebration of Vespers and the Te Deum on December 31 to Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, this time without explanation.
Sciatica treated this year
However, the Argentine doctor and friend of the Pope, Nelson Castro, author of a book on the health of the popes, was reassuring last October. He said at a press conference that the Pope’s sciatica had been treated during the year 2021. The Pope, he said, is perfectly able to travel.
The year 2021 also had another medical challenge for the Pontiff: At the beginning of July, he was hospitalized for 10 days after a colon operation that resulted in the removal of 33 centimeters of intestine.