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Knee pain causes Pope to cancel Ash Wednesday service


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

VATICAN CITY, February 23, 2022: Pope Francis during his weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican.

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 02/25/22

The Holy Father was scheduled to go to a Summit on the Mediterranean in Florence this weekend, but that has been cancelled as well.

Pope Francis has cancelled his visit to the gathering of bishops and mayors in Florence, scheduled for February 27, as well as his participation in the Ash Wednesday celebrations on March 2. The reason is “acute gonalgia” (knee pain), announced the Press Office of the Holy See on February 25.

Nevertheless, the Pope did visit the Russian Embassy on the morning of February 25.

The doctor of the Argentine Pontiff has prescribed “a period of rest,” specifies a note from the Holy See. 

The Holy Father has been suffering from an inflamed knee since at least January 26, when he joked about it at that day’s general audience.

The 85-year-old Pope said that day that he wouldn’t walk along the aisle of Paul VI Hall to greet the people, because of inflammation in his knee. He made it into a joke about his age:

And allow me to explain to you that I will not be able to go among you today to greet you, because I have a problem with my right leg; a ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing. They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but… I don’t know.

To all, always, my blessing.

Later that week, when he met with Aleteia staff and other media, he mentioned the pain again, greeting most of the people in that audience from a seated position.

Several weeks of pain

The Holy Father has long suffered from difficulties walking due to sciatica, which often gives him a notable limp. Some days before expressing the problem with his knee, he said on January 17, “Today, it hurts to stand.”

“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.

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.

Sciatica is 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 in 2013.

A stumble in Athens

On his last international trip, last December, the Pope seemed to be walking well, but he did trip on the stairs of the plane as he departed Greece. That slip, though, seemed to be largely caused by the wind in his cassock.

There was a very brisk breeze at the airport, and his cassock was blowing around his legs. The pellegrina (the short cape-like piece around his shoulders) was at times blowing into his face, blocking his view. He stopped to pull it off his face as he climbed the stairs, and then nearly tripped; an aide quickly ascended the stairs to keep the pellegrina in place as the Holy Father took the last few steps and turned for a last wave.

Pope Francis
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