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Pope Francis cancels trip to COP28 climate conference in Dubai due to illness

Pope Francis cancels trip to climate summit
Pope Francis cancels trip to climate summit due to illness 00:18

Pope Francis has canceled a planned trip to Dubai, where he was scheduled to speak at a climate conference, based on his doctors' advice, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Tuesday in a statement. 

The pope, who was slated to speak Saturday at the COP28 summit on climate issues, announced last weekend he was fighting a case of lung inflammation

The pope's "influenza and inflammation of the respiratory tract has improved," his doctors said in the latest statement, but they've "asked the Pope not to make the trip planned for the next few days."

"Pope Francis accepted the doctors' request with great regret and the trip was therefore canceled," the statement said.

Francis, who will turn 87 on Dec. 17, has been focused on fighting climate change, making the issue a signature fight of his papacy. He has said climate change is "one of the most worrisome phenomena that humanity is facing," and urged climate negotiators to ignore special interests, political or economic pressures, and instead engage in an honest dialogue about the future of the planet.

In 2021, Francis called on lawmakers and governments to commit to ambitious goals to tackle the threat of rising temperatures and stressed the importance of "concretely encouraging new paths to pursue" that would help protect the environment. That same year, he said he planned to attend COP26, but the Vatican announced that the pope wouldn't attend and the church's delegation would instead be led by the secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

No explanation was given at the time, but the pope had undergone intestinal surgery a few months prior. He had said his attendance at the climate conference depended on  his "continued recovery."

Francis came down with the flu late last week. After canceling his audiences Saturday — including with the visiting leader of Guinea Bissau — he went to the hospital for a CAT scan, and the Vatican said the test had ruled out pneumonia.

On Sunday, he skipped his traditional appearance at his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square to avoid the cold. Instead, Francis gave the traditional noon blessing in a televised appearance from the chapel in the Vatican hotel where he lives and asked a priest to read his written daily reflections out loud.

He coughed and spoke in a whisper, and sported the cannula in which he was receiving antibiotics intravenously. Recruiting a substitute speaker was a first for this pope and recalled how St. John Paul II frequently had other prelates read his remarks in his final years as he battled the effects of Parkinson's disease.

People who saw Francis this week said his health was improving but he still spoke in a whisper.

In April, the pope spent three days at Rome's Gemelli hospital for what the Vatican said was bronchitis after he had trouble breathing. He was discharged after receiving intravenous antibiotics.

Francis spent 10 days at the same hospital in July 2021 following intestinal surgery for a bowel narrowing. He was readmitted in June of this year for an operation to repair an abdominal hernia and remove scarring from previous surgeries.

When asked about his health in a recent interview, Francis quipped in reply what has become his standard line — "Still alive!"

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