Pope Cancels Trip to UN Climate Conference on Doctors’ Orders

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Pope Francis canceled his trip to Dubai for the U.N. climate conference on doctors’ orders Tuesday, even though he is recovering from the flu and lung inflammation, the Vatican said.

Francis, who turns 87 next month, was scheduled to leave Rome on Friday to address the COP28 meeting first thing Saturday morning. He also was supposed to inaugurate a faith pavilion Sunday on the sidelines of the conference before returning home.

The pope revealed Sunday that he had lung inflammation but said at the time that he still planned to go to Dubai, where he was to become the first pontiff to address a U.N. climate conference. Care for the environment has been a priority for Francis, and presidents and patriarchs alike have welcomed his moral leadership on the issue.

Until the announcement late Tuesday, all of the information from the Vatican indicated the trip would proceed. The Vatican spokesman held his traditional pre-trip briefing earlier in the day and fielded questions about Francis’ planned bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Dubai conference. The Vatican travel agency accepted payment for journalists to fly on the papal plane, and the Vatican press office finalized accreditation details.

The announcement marked the second time the pope’s frail health had forced the cancellation of a foreign trip: He had to postpone a planned trip to Congo and South Sudan in 2022 because of knee inflammation, though he was able to make the journey earlier this year.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis was improving from the flu and inflammation of his respiratory tract that had forced him to cancel his audiences Saturday. But “the doctors have asked the pope not to make the trip planned for the coming days to Dubai.

“Pope Francis accepted the doctors’ request with great regret, and the trip is therefore canceled,” he added.

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