Pope Francis is still having trouble breathing due to lung inflammation, Vatican says

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Pope Francis attends the weekly general audience at the Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITYPope Francis is still having trouble breathing as a result of a lung inflammation that forced him to cancel his scheduled address at the U.N. climate conference in Dubai and to delegate the reading of his weekly catechesis lesson and other remarks to aides, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Francis told his general audience Wednesday morning that he still didn't feel well and that his voice was “not pretty." He coughed and spoke in a whisper in the few remarks he did deliver at the end of the gathering.

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Francis, who turns 87 next month and had part of one lung removed as a young man, no longer has a fever and is in stable condition but continues to receive antibiotics, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in an update later Wednesday.

“The lung inflammation associated with the respiratory difficulty remains,” he said.

Francis came down with the flu late last week and canceled all his audiences Saturday for what he later revealed was a lung inflammation. The Vatican has said a CAT scan ruled out pneumonia, but Francis on Tuesday canceled his planned weekend trip to Dubai for the climate meeting after doctors recommended against it.

The pontiff, who has made caring for the environment a priority of his papacy, wants in some way to participate in the discussions in Dubai, according to the Holy See. It was unclear if Francis might read his address to the COP28 event by videoconference or take part in some other form.

The Vatican said the pope had acquiesced to the doctors’ request “with great regret.”

After asking an aide to read his catechism lesson, Francis did speak at the end of the audience to welcome the truce between Israel and Hamas. He said he hopes it continues “so that all the hostages are released and access necessary to permit humanitarian aid” to reach Gaza is provided.

"They lack bread, water, the people are suffering,'' Francis said.

Francis also met with members of Celtic, a soccer team from Glasgow, Scotland, which has strong Catholic roots.

“Excuse me, but with this cold, I cannot speak much, but I am better than yesterday,'' Francis told team members.

While he let a priest read his remarks, at the end, the pope praised the ”beauty of playing together." The pontiff, an avid soccer fan from Argentina, told the players that he would greet them one by one.

And Francis seemed to enjoy a performance of visiting circus performers and posed for a group photo.

“I want to say thanks for this moment of joy,'' Francis said, adding that the circus expresses the human dimension of “simple joy,” and asking the audience to applaud.

Francis was hospitalized earlier this year for three days for intravenous treatment with antibiotics of what the Vatican then said was bronchitis.