Pope Francis to skip COP28 climate summit due to illness

The Vatican announced on Wednesday that Pope Francis will miss COP28 due to illness. File Photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Pope Francis will not attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28, later this week in Dubai, on the advice of his physicians.

Vatican officials said Tuesday that Francis would cancel his appearance at the meeting where world leaders address climate change issues as he has been ill.

"Even though the Holy Father's general health situation has improved in relation to the flu and respiratory tract inflammation he has been suffering from, his doctors have asked the Pope not to undertake his scheduled visit to Dubai in the coming days, on the occasion of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change," the Holy See office said in a statement.

The pope was expected to appear at COP28 from Friday to Sunday, addressing the assembly on Saturday, becoming the first pope to attend the climate conference and inaugurate its first Faith Pavilion.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni implied that Francis may still participate in the climate meeting from afar, saying "the modalities by which this can happen will be defined as soon as possible."

The pontiff canceled several meetings this week while he recovered from lung inflammation and breathing difficulties.

Physicians performed a CT scan last Saturday at Gemelli Hospital to check for pneumonia and started receiving antibiotics intravenously, said Bruni on Monday.

The announcement of Francis' absence came after the White House announced on Monday that President Joe Biden would not attend COP28 either, instead allowing climate change envoy John Kerry to take the lead for the United States.

COP28, though, will feature other world leaders discussing their progress on climate change policy.

"COP28 opens tomorrow with a resounding call to accelerate global climate action," U.N. Climate Change said on X. "As the climate crisis worsens around the world, COP28 must be a decisive moment to act on climate commitments and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."