ROME – After cancelling a trip to Dubai this week for a high-profile United Nations climate summit amid new health concerns, Pope Francis, despite suffering from a flu and lung inflammation, kept major appointments Wednesday but refrained from reading prepared speeches.
Entering the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall for his Nov. 29 weekly general audience to a loud round of applause, a breathless and raspy Pope Francis opened the gathering but announced that “we’ll continue with the catechesis, but I’m still not well with this cold and my voice is not good.”
An official of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Italian Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli, read the pope’s catechesis and greetings to the various language groups.
Pope Francis then watched a circus performance and issued another appeal for peace in Ukraine and in the Holy Land before concluding the audience, praying that a truce in Gaza continues to hold “so that all the hostages are released and access to the necessary humanitarian aid is allowed.”
“I heard from the parish there: There is no water, there is no bread, and the people are suffering,” he said, saying, “It is the simple people, the common people, who suffer. Those who make war do not suffer. We ask for peace.”
Later in the day, the pope met with the Scottish Celtic Football Club Limited, offering the athletes a few brief off-the-cuff remarks on the value of sports in teaching people about teamwork and being together.
On Tuesday, hours after holding a press briefing on the pope’s scheduled Dec. 1-3 trip to Dubai for the COP28 UN climate summit and confirming to reporters that the visit was still on, the Vatican announced that the trip had been cancelled upon medical advice from Francis’s doctors given his current illness.
Pope Francis is suffering from what the Vatican has described as a “mild flu” which has caused an inflammation of his lungs.
While pneumonia and other more serious illnesses were ruled out with a CT scan over the weekend, the pontiff was prescribed antibiotics and is apparently improving. However, his doctors advised against international travel.
In a statement Tuesday, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that “even though the general clinical framework of the Holy Father in relation to the state of influenza and inflammation of the respiratory tract has improved, doctors have asked the pope not to make the trip planned for the coming days to Dubai.”
Pope Francis accepted the doctor’s advice “with great regret,” he said, but assured that the pope still intends to participate in the gathering, and methods to facilitate his participation are being evaluated.
In a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the official COP28 UAE account said they were “saddened” to learn that Francis would not participate in the meeting in person but said “we are exploring alternative ways to enable His Holiness’ participation in COP28, and wish him a swift recovery.”
In 2021 the pope had planned to travel to Glasgow for the COP26 UN climate summit but was unable to because of logistical difficulties. His presence at the COP28 summit would have made him the first pope to ever attend the gathering.
Pope Francis was hospitalized earlier this year with bronchitis in what he later described as a close call, and he was hospitalized again in June after undergoing surgery for an abdominal hernia.
Follow Elise Ann Allen on X: @eliseannallen