Pope cancels Florence visit, Ash Wednesday due to knee pain

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Pope Francis has canceled a scheduled Sunday visit to Florence and will not preside over Ash Wednesday commemorations next week because of what the Vatican described Friday as a flareup of “acute” knee pain.

The Vatican said the 85-year-old pope was canceling his participation in the events after his doctors prescribed a period of rest.

The pope has suffered for several weeks for what he has said was an inflamed ligament in his right knee.

Pope Francis holds his homily during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany at St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 6, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. 

Pope Francis holds his homily during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6, 2022, in Vatican City, Vatican. 
(AleVatican Pool/Getty Images)

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Francis has long suffered from sciatica nerve pain that makes him walk with a pronounced limp, which has become more obvious in recent weeks.

He has cited the pain in explaining his limited mobility recently and decision to remain seated during events that would otherwise see him stand.

The Argentine Jesuit enjoys generally good health, though he had 33 centimeters (13 inches) of his large intestine removed in July. Francis also had a part of one lung removed when he was a young man after a respiratory infection.

Francis had been due to travel to Florence for a half-day visit Sunday to address a meeting of Mediterranean bishops and mayors and to celebrate Mass. It would have been his first pastoral visit within Italy since the pandemic.

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He was to have presided over Ash Wednesday commemorations, including a short procession, at a church outside the Vatican in the Aventine neighborhood of Rome.

Despite the cancellations, the Vatican released Francis’ itinerary for an April 2-3 visit to Malta, making clear he plans to go ahead with his agenda.

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