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Breathless Pope delegates reading as flu persists

By AFP - Nov 29,2023 - Last updated at Nov 29,2023

This photo taken on Wednesday by The Vatican Media shows Celtic’s head coach Brendan Rogers giving a jersey to Pope Francis during an audience with members of the Scottish football team Celtic Glasgow in The Vatican (AFP photo)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis presided over his weekly audience on Wednesday despite the flu that caused him to scrap a trip to Dubai, but asked an aide to deliver his reading for him.

The Argentine pontiff, 86, looked tired and sounded breathless as he told the audience at the Vatican that “I’m still not well with this flu”.

Francis, who had part of a lung removed when he was younger, was forced on Tuesday to cancel his scheduled trip to key UN climate talks, following advice from his doctors.

The Pope had been due to travel to Dubai from Friday to Sunday, but is suffering from an inflammation of the respiratory tract, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

Francis spoke at the end of Wednesday’s audience to call for an end to the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, wheezing as he did so.

But he looked cheered by a circus performance put on for him, complete with acrobats on roller skates.

And before the general audience he told visiting members of the Celtic football club that he was feeling “better than yesterday”.

The Pope, who turns 87 next month, has suffered a series of health issues in recent years, from knee and hip pain to an inflamed colon and most recently, hernia surgery in June. 

He was also hospitalised for three nights in March with bronchitis, which was cured with antibiotics.

On Saturday, he cancelled events due to what the Vatican called “light flu symptoms”. 

It said that a CT scan had ruled out “risks of pulmonary complications” and Francis was receiving antibiotics intravenously.


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