Pope Francis on Thursday appeared for the first time in a wheelchair at a public event

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The 85-year-old used for the first time a wheelchair at a public event, because he struggles with knee problems from strained ligaments. He also suffers from sciatica, which causes pain in the leg. The 85-year-old pontiff was wheeled out into the Paul VI general audience hall at the Vatican on Thursday for a meeting of a Catholic organisation of sisters and nuns from around the world who are meeting in Rome. His spirits seemed high. An aide helped him out of the wheelchair and onto his seat. “There is a problem, this knee doesn’t work,” he said. “I have to obey the doctor, who told me not to walk.” has been suffering for months with pain in his right knee.

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The pontiff has had to cancel or curtail activities several times over the past month because of the pain. He said doctors have told him they will be giving him an injection to help the movement of his joints. A Vatican source said the pope was not expected to make any changes to his schedule over the next few weeks. He is due to visit Lebanon in June, then South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Canada in July. During a trip to Malta in April he was pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.