Despite delivering the homily, Pope Francis did not preside over New Year’s Eve vespers at St Peter’s Basilica on Friday as planned.
The dean of the College of Cardinals, Giovanni Battista Re, presided over the service, with the 85-year-old pontiff seated on the sidelines, wearing a mask.
A spokeswoman for Francis simply stated that he wished the cardinal to preside over the celebration when asked about the change just three hours after the Vatican announced the pope’s presiding role.
Because of sciatica, a persistent nerve problem that causes pain in his hip and which he has long suffered from, the pontiff was unable to celebrate New Year’s liturgies last year.
After the end-of-year vespers, the pope usually visits the Nativity Scene in St Peter’s Square, but the event was canceled on Friday because to concerns that coronavirus could spread among the crowds.
As in the rest of Europe, the novel Omicron variant is causing a spike in coronavirus cases in Italy, and by extension, the Vatican City State.