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Pope Francis at his recent audience in St. Peter's Square

Photo: Andrew Medichini / AP

Pope Francis has cancelled his trip to Dubai for the World Climate Conference next weekend due to a respiratory illness. Although the health of the head of the Catholic Church has improved, his doctors have asked him not to make the three-day trip, Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni said. "Pope Francis has accepted the doctors' request with great regret and the trip has therefore been cancelled," Bruni continued.

Since last weekend, the 86-year-old pontiff has been suffering from a mild flu and inflammation in the lungs and respiratory tract, according to the Vatican. The Argentine has already had to cancel appointments and held the traditional Angelus prayer from his residence, having large parts of his speech read aloud by a priest. Francis appeared exhausted, coughing and had to be treated intravenously with antibiotics.

The pontiff was to take part in a world climate conference for the first time. From Friday to Sunday, he wanted to travel to the Arab Emirate of Dubai for the COP28 summit. His speech had been eagerly awaited. In the past, the Argentine has repeatedly campaigned for the protection of the climate. It was initially unclear whether Francis would be connected via video for his planned speech or what the exact plans for it are.

The concern for the Pope is now once again great among Catholics worldwide. Francis will be 87 years old in December. For some time now, his health has been bothering him. He has already been treated in a clinic twice this year. First of all, because of pneumonia. Later, he had to undergo surgery on his open abdomen under general anesthesia.