Pope Francis Cancels Trip to COP28 Climate Summit After Getting Sick

Pope Francis, following his doctor’s orders, will not attend the United Nations climate summit in Dubai later this week, the Vatican said Tuesday.

Although the pontiff’s general health was improving after a bout of flu and lung inflammation, his doctors had asked Francis to take it easy, the Vatican said in a statement.

“Pope Francis regretfully accepted the doctors’ request, and the trip has been canceled,” said Matteo Bruni, the Vatican spokesman.

Francis had been scheduled to begin a three-day visit to Dubai on Friday to attend the climate summit, known by the acronym COP28. The Vatican said it would seek ways to ensure that the pope and the Holy See could be “part of the discussions taking place in the coming days,” without specifying how.

Francis’s health has caused concern in recent years. The pontiff, who turns 87 next month, has been hospitalized three times in two years, most recently in June, when surgeons operated on an incisional hernia, typically the consequence of previous operations, that had been causing painful intestinal blockages. He also had colon surgery in 2021, and in March of this year, he was hospitalized for a respiratory infection.

On Saturday, Francis canceled meetings because of mild flulike symptoms. The Vatican said the pope went to a hospital in Rome for a CT scan to rule out the risk of pulmonary complications. The test came back negative, and the pontiff returned to the Vatican.

Mr. Bruni said Monday that while the scan had excluded pneumonia, it did detect inflammation in the pope’s lungs that caused breathing difficulties. Francis was receiving antibiotics intravenously, he said. Francis lost part of a lung to an infection as a teenager.

On Sunday, Francis did not recite the Angelus prayer and blessing from a window in the Apostolic Palace, as he usually does, to crowds waiting below in St. Peter’s Square. Instead, he spoke from a chapel in the Casa Santa Marta, the guesthouse where the pope lives inside Vatican City, while the faithful watched on big screens in the square.

“Today I cannot come to the window because I have a problem of inflammation of the lungs,” Francis said.

More than 100 other world leaders are scheduled to appear at the climate summit, including King Charles III, President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain.

Francis has made climate activism a hallmark of his papacy, calling on world leaders to do everything in their power to confront climate change. In October, he released a major new document to lament the scant progress that had been made since his groundbreaking 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si,” or “Praise Be to You,” sought to thrust the Catholic Church into the forefront of the environmental movement.