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ROME – On Friday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has canceled his daytrip to Florence this weekend and will be unable to celebrate next week’s Ash Wednesday Mass due to “acute knee pain.”
In a Feb. 25 statement, the Vatican said that given the condition, the pope’s doctor “has prescribed a period of greater rest for the leg.”
Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Florence Sunday as part of a high-profile meeting between mayors and church leaders in the Mediterranean, where he was expected to advance his agenda on migration.
He was also expected to preside over next week’s Ash Wednesday service, which marks the beginning of the church’s Lenten season and which this year the pope has designated as a special day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine.
The Vatican did not disclose whether anyone would go to Florence in the pope’s place, or who would celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass in his absence.
This is the latest in a string of health problems Pope Francis has endured over the past year.
Last January, he was unable to celebrate his traditional New Year’s liturgies due to what the Vatican described as a “painful sciatica.”
The traditional 2020 New Year’s Eve Vespers and 2021 Mass on New Year’s Day were celebrated by Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals, and the Vatican Secretary of State, Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, respectively.
Over the summer, Pope Francis, who has long suffered from sciatica and who is missing part of a lung due to a pulmonary illness he contracted in his youth, underwent surgery for “stenotic diverticulitis,” meaning a restriction and hardening of tissue in his lower intestine.
In total, around half of his colon was removed during the lengthy procedure.
Pope Francis also took a step back from his New Year’s Eve Vespers service in December. In a surprise move, the liturgy was presided over by Re, while the pope sat in a chair to the side of the main altar, rising only to give the homily and during certain parts of the liturgy.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen