A file photo of Pope Francis. Photograph:( AFP )
The pope was unable to attend services on Thursday and again on Friday morning because of sciatica, a relatively common problem that causes pain along the sciatic nerve down the lower back and legs
Pope Francis ushered in the New Year on Friday with a traditional Angelus blessing from the papal library, pushing through nerve pain that forced him to skip New Year's ceremonies in St. Peter's Basilica.
The pope was unable to attend services on Thursday and again on Friday morning because of sciatica, a relatively common problem that causes pain along the sciatic nerve down the lower back and legs.
It was believed to be the first time since he became pope in 2013 that Francis, who turned 84 last month, has been prevented by health reasons from leading a major papal event.
However, he showed no sign of discomfort as he delivered a noon address and prayer, standing at a lectern in the library of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.
The papal blessing was moved inside from the usual perch at a window overlooking St. Peter's Square to discourage crowds as Italy is living under tighter COVID-19 restrictions this holiday season.
"Life today is governed by war, by enmity, by many things that are destructive. We want peace. It is a gift," Francis said, adding that the response to the global coronavirus crisis showed the importance of burden-sharing.
"The painful events that marked humanity's journey last year, especially the pandemic, taught us how much it is necessary to take an interest in the problems of others and to share their concerns," he said.
Pope highlighted, in particular, his worries about Yemen, where children are living ''without education, without medicine, hungry'' and for the release of the Rev. Moses Chikwe, a bishop in the Owerri archdiocese of Nigeria, who was kidnapped last Sunday by gunmen.
Yemen has been blighted by six years of violence that has pitted a Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
"I express my sorrow and concern for the further escalation of violence in Yemen, which is causing numerous innocent victims," Francis said. "Let us think of the children of Yemen, without education, without medicine, famished."