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Pope Francis makes first appearance since canceling UN climate summit trip: ‘I am not well’

Pope Francis made a public appearance at the Vatican on Wednesday, his first since staff announced the pope would not be attending a three-day overseas trip to a U.N. climate conference, known as COP28, in Dubai.

Francis, who has lung inflammation causing breathing problems, presided with the public but said he was still unwell and asked an aide to read his remarks for him.

With a soft voice, barely above a whisper, Francis told the public that the aid would read his written remarks “since I am not well.” He then handed the printed speech to the aide while Francis remained seated on the stage.

Francis, who had part of one lung removed as a young man, stood up only briefly at the start of the event. He made the sign of the cross and then returned to his seat.

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On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that doctors had asked the pope to skip the climate conference as the pope, who will turn 87 on Dec. 17, continues to suffer from the flu and “inflammation of the respiratory airways.” He acquiesced to the doctors’ request “with great regret,” the Vatican said.

The trip would have started Friday, with the pope returning to Rome on Sunday.

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The pontiff wished to attend the COP28 as he has made caring for the environment a priority of his papacy. He also wanted to participate in some way in the discussions in the United Arab Emirates, according to the Holy See. It is unclear if Francis might read an address to the climate conference by videoconference or take part in some other form.

Francis was hospitalized earlier this year for three days for intravenous treatment with antibiotics for what was eventually identified as bronchitis.

The Vatican said the pontiff in his current illness was receiving antibiotics intravenously.

The pope was seen with a cannula for intravenous use and a bandage on his right hand during a televised appearance on Sunday. He also underwent a CT scan, performed at a Rome hospital, earlier in the week, according to the Vatican.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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