International News

Pope Cancels Dubai Trip Over Health Concerns

Pope Francis gives his blessing to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican and watching a livestream of the midday Angelus prayer Nov. 26, 2023. The pope did not go to his window overlooking the square because, he said, he had a “problem with inflammation of my lungs.” (Photo: CNS/Vatican Media)

By Elise Ann Allen

ROME (Crux) — Just hours after a Vatican news conference confirming Pope Francis’ trip to Dubai this weekend for a United Nations climate summit, the Vatican announced Nov. 28 that it has been canceled upon medical advice due to an ongoing infection causing lung inflammation.

A Vatican spokesman announced, however, that Pope Francis will lead his Wednesday general audience, though it wasn’t immediately clear whether he would do so from St. Peter’s Square as usual or via livestream from indoors as he conducted last Sunday’s Angelus address.

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.”

Bruni, who hours earlier had briefed reporters on the papal trip and confirmed the pope’s plans to travel to Dubai, said Pope Francis accepted the doctor’s advice “with great regret, and the trip is therefore canceled.

“As the pope and the Holy See remain willing to be part of the discussions taking place in the coming days, the ways in which this can be implemented will be defined as soon as possible,” Bruni said, without offering further specifics.

Concern over the pontiff’s health arose Saturday when the Vatican issued a brief statement saying Pope Francis had canceled all of the day’s audiences due to a “mild flu.”

A second statement published later Saturday said Pope Francis had gone to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital for a CT scan to rule out “pulmonary complications,” and that the scan “was negative.”

In a statement Monday, Bruni confirmed that the pope’s CT scan Saturday “ruled out pneumonia but showed pulmonary inflammation that caused some breathing difficulties.

“For a greater effectiveness of the therapy, a cannula needle was positioned for an infusion of intravenous antibiotic therapy,” he said, saying the pope’s conditions are currently “good and stable, he does not have a fever, and his respiratory situation is clearly improving.”

In order to help facilitate the pope’s recovery, Bruni said some “important commitments” in coming days have been postponed so that Pope Francis “can dedicate the desired time and energy to them.”

Other commitments “of an institutional character or which are easier to support given his current health conditions,” are still on the schedule.

Concern over any form of respiratory disease for Pope Francis, who is missing part of one lung, spiked earlier this year when he was hospitalized with bronchitis, saying afterward that it had been a close call.

In late March he was rushed to the Gemelli Hospital following his weekly general audience when he experienced breathing difficulties. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and was administered intravenous antibiotics before being released three days later.

Following April’s hospital stay, the pope was admitted to the Gemelli Hospital again in June for surgery on an abdominal hernia and he continues to suffer from other milder maladies, such as ongoing sciatica and knee troubles.

This is not the first time Pope Francis has canceled a scheduled trip. He postponed a July 2022 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, which was later rescheduled for January of this year.