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Gerard O’ConnellNovember 28, 2023
Pope Francis speaks to a crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience Nov. 22, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

On the advice of his doctors, Pope Francis has “with great regret” canceled his visit to Dubai for the COP28 conference on climate change, the Vatican announced on Tuesday evening, Nov. 28.

The news came in a statement from the director of the Holy See’s Press Office, Matteo Bruni, to accredited Vatican media, just after 7:30 p.m. (Rome time).

Over the weekend, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had a “light flu” and “inflammation of the lungs,” and several of his scheduled audiences were canceled. The statement today said that “although his general clinical picture had improved” in relation to the “state of influenza and the inflammation of the respiratory tracts, the doctors asked the pope not to make the trip scheduled for the coming days in Dubai, on the occasion of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

“Pope Francis accepted with great regret the request of his doctors and so the trip has been canceled,” Mr. Bruni stated.

At the same time, he said, “given the will of the pope and of the Holy See to participate in the discussions in the coming days,” the Vatican will seek “to define as soon as possible the modalities in which this may be realized.”

Pope Francis, who will be 87 on Dec. 17, was due to make the six-hour flight from Rome to Dubai on Friday morning, Dec. 1. But senior Vatican officials who wished to remain anonymous told America that they questioned the wisdom of the trip given that the pope could not deliver his weekly catechesis at the midday Angelus last Sunday.

Francis’ program for his 45th foreign journey, as outlined by Mr. Bruni earlier today at the briefing for the international media traveling with the pope, seemed daunting even for a person in good health. It envisaged a six-hour flight from Rome on Dec. 1 and a talk by the pope to the summit of COP28 on the morning of Dec. 2, followed by no less than 30 bilateral meetings in the course of that same day—roughly 20 of them with heads of state or government. This would all take place in a hotter, drier climate, with entrances and exits from air-conditioned buildings.

The following morning, Dec. 3, Pope Francis was slated to inaugurate the first-ever Faith Pavilion at a COP event with the grand imam of Al-Azhar. Immediately afterward, he was scheduled to board the plane for an almost seven-hour journey back to Rome, during which he would have given a press conference.

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