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Pope Francis cancels Cop28 trip ‘on doctors’ orders’

A giant screen broadcasts Pope Francis coughing during the Angelus noon prayer, from the chapel of the hotel at the Vatican grounds where he lives, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
A giant screen broadcasts Pope Francis coughing during the Angelus noon prayer, from the chapel of the hotel at the Vatican grounds where he lives, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023 (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Pope Francis has cancelled his trip to Dubai for Cop28, the Vatican said in a statement on Tuesday.

Francis, who has been an outspoken advocate for climate action, was expected to be the first Pontiff to attend the global climate summit.

The pope has been receiving antibiotics intravenously to treat lung inflammation but doesn’t have pneumonia or fever, according to reports on Monday. The Vatican’s press office director, Matteo Bruni, said in a written statement that the inflammation was causing some respiratory difficulties for Francis, whose 87th birthday is next month.

He had been scheduled to visit the United Arab Emirates from 1-3 December to address the summit and meet with world leaders, before inaugurating the first Faith Pavilion at a Cop.

“If we believe in the capacity of human beings to transcend our petty interests and to think on a grand scale, we cannot give up on dreaming that #COP28 will lead to an acceleration of the energy transition. This Conference can be a turning point,” Francis tweeted on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday.

The pope had been expected to address a number of issues at Cop28 including funding for Loss and Damage to help poor and vulnerable countries facing climate disasters, and fossil fuels.

“We hope that countries at COP28 will live up to Pope Francis’ urgent call for greater ambition on addressing the climate crisis, and for politicians to leave a legacy they can be proud of,” Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, told The Independent.

“We hope he recovers soon and will continue to encourage leaders from Rome.”

Last month, the pontiff published his Laudate Deum text where he called on governments, business and citizens to take urgent action and warned that the “world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point”.

The text also drew attention to the inequity of the climate crisis. “How can we forget that Africa, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, is responsible for a minimal portion of historic emissions?” Francis wrote.