Pope Francis says he's 'not well' amid public audience after canceling Dubai trip

Pope Francis attended his weekly audience with the public at the Vatican on Wednesday but said he was "not well" after canceling a trip on doctors' orders earlier in the week.

Francis, just weeks away from his 87th birthday, had a "flu-like condition and inflammation of the respiratory tract" that were improving, the Vatican said Tuesday. He canceled his planned trip to Dubai for the United Nations climate change conference. He had been scheduled to leave Friday.

"Pope Francis accepted the doctors' request with great regret and the trip is therefore canceled," Bruno Mattei, spokesperson for the Holy See press office, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the pontiff asked an aide to read a prepared speech and said in a soft voice that he was "not well" and that his speech would not sound "pretty" if he read it. He coughed near the end of the hourlong appearance but later also gave remarks, expressing support for the temporary truce in the Israel-Hamas war, the release of hostages and the delivery of aid to Gaza.

Earlier in the day, he also met with members of the Scottish soccer team Celtic.

“Excuse me, but with this cold, I cannot speak much, but I am better than yesterday," he said to the team.

Photos of Francis from Wednesday show him at times among large groups of people.

Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 29, 2023.
Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican on Nov. 29, 2023.

Health history of Pope Francis

Francis, who turns 87 on Dec. 17, has been hospitalized at least twice this year.

In June, he had abdominal surgery to repair a hernia and remove scarring and left the hospital in Rome nine days later. The Vatican said at the time that scarring from previous surgeries had been causing him pain and put him at risk of other health problems.

In March, Francis was hospitalized for three days after having difficulty breathing and was treated for bronchitis.

"Still alive," he joked with reporters both times upon release from the hospital.

He also had colon surgery in 2021 and ocular surgery in 2019. He has sometimes used a cane or wheelchair because of knee trouble.

As a young man, he had part of one lung removed in his native Argentina.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The pope is 'not well' but improving after canceling trip to Dubai