Pope Francis, taking the advice of his doctors, has canceled his upcoming trip to Dubai, where he was scheduled to attend the COP28 conference on climate change, the Vatican announced on Tuesday.
Despite the improvement of his health after contracting the flu, "doctors asked that the pope not carry out his planned trip to Dubai in the next few days," read a statement by Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni.
The 86-year-old pontiff "accepted the doctors' request with great regret and therefore the trip is canceled," Bruni said.
Francis was slated to attend a series of meetings with decision-makers gathered at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which begins Friday, and was set to speak at the inauguration of the first-ever "Faith Pavilion" at the summit along with other religious leaders, including the United Kingdom's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, president of the Divine Shakti Foundation.
The Vatican statement said the pope and the Holy See still wish to take part in the discussions remotely, saying that announcements will follow as to how exactly that will take place.
Francis has taken a strong interest in the issue of climate change, recently publishing an apostolic exhortation on the topic, "Laudate Deum," renewing the call he made in his 2015 encyclical, "Laudate Si'," for political leaders to act quickly on protections for the environment.
On Saturday the Vatican announced that Francis had contracted a mild flu and had been taken to Gemelli Hospital in Rome for a CT scan of his lungs to make sure it hadn't turned into pneumonia. During his customary Sunday prayer in St. Peter's Square the following day, Francis told the audience he was suffering from "an inflammation of the lungs" and he appeared tired and out of breath.
The pope has had a reduced schedule in the past few days and received antibiotics intravenously.
According to official data from Italy, there has been a surge in the number of people who contracted the flu in the early weeks of November, coinciding with a wave of unusually cold temperatures across the Italian peninsula.
Last year, Francis canceled a scheduled visit to Congo and South Sudan, citing knee problems. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, canceled several trips due to his medical condition.
The current pope, who turns 87 in December, has seen his physical ability slowly decline in recent years, primarily due to sciatica and knee pain, and has also been subject to frequent respiratory infections. A small part of Francis' lung was removed when he was a teenager in his native Argentina after an infection.
© Religion News Service