Illness Sidelines the Pope

Vatican attributes event cancelation to mild flu
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 24, 2024 1:55 PM CST
Illness Sidelines the Pope
Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis has canceled an audience scheduled for Saturday as a precaution after coming down with mild flu, the Vatican press office said in a short statement. Francis was scheduled to meet with Rome deacons in the morning, the AP reports. The press office described the illness as "a mild, flu-like condition," per Vatican News. A Vatican spokesman said later Saturday that the pope's weekly Sunday Angelus address was still to be confirmed, and that no further health updates were expected for the day.

The 87-year-old pontiff has had several health problems in recent years. In late November, he was forced to cancel activities and an international trip because of breathing problems. A scan at the time ruled out lung complications. Francis had part of one lung removed when he was young and still living in his native Argentina. In April, the pope spent three days at Rome's Gemelli hospital for what the Vatican said was bronchitis. He was discharged after receiving intravenous antibiotics. Francis had spent 10 days at the hospital in July 2021 following intestinal surgery for narrowing of the bowel. He was readmitted in June 2023 for an operation to repair an abdominal hernia and remove scarring from previous surgeries.

When asked about his health in a recent television interview, Francis quipped what has become his standard line: "Still alive, you know." Over the past two years, Francis has indicated several times that he would be ready to step down, following the example of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, if his health deteriorates to the point that it becomes an impediment to leading the Catholic Church. However, in an interview last month, per the AP, he said he felt in good health and denied immediate plans to resign.

(More Pope Francis stories.)

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