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Pope with a “bit of bronchitis,” apologizes for not reading speech


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media - published on 01/12/24

Pope Francis said he has "a bit of bronchitis" during a meeting with communications workers from France on January 12.

“I would like to read the whole speech but I have a problem: I have a bit of bronchitis and I can’t speak well,” said Pope Francis, as he met with a group of communications workers from France, on January 12, 2024, at the Vatican. He did, however, take the time to greet each of the 150 French participants, one of them told I.Media. Earlier in the morning, the 87-year-old Pontiff did read two speeches normally, albeit in a somewhat breathless voice.

In his final audience of the morning, the Pope thanked the 150 communication workers from dioceses, religious congregations, Catholic associations and movements, new communities and parishes who had come from France. He then apologized for being unable to read his speech due to “a bit of bronchitis.” 

“I cannot speak well,” the Pope told his audience. “If it does not offend you, I will hand over the copy of the speech. Excuse me. I will hand it over for all of you to have it, but I have such a hard time talking. Thank you for your understanding. And thank you for coming.”

Improvising a few words on the importance of communication, the Pontiff then announced that he would greet the participants one by one, “because to greet, I don’t need to speak. I do it from the heart.”

“The Pope arrived on foot, without his wheelchair,” Nathalie Chambon, head of communications for Aid to the Church in Need, told I.Media. “He gave us his speech to read, but he took the time to greet all the communicators. I was able to ask him to pray for persecuted Christians, especially those in Armenia. He looked at me attentively and said ‘yes,’ and without letting go of my hand, thanked us for the work we were doing.”

A busy week for Pope Francis

This morning the Pope had eight appointments on his agenda, including audiences with four groups. As he received two of them, he read his speeches in full, even improvising a few times, but while showing signs that he was running out of breath. He encouraged the fellows of the Toniolo Young Professional Association, who are trained by international organizations, not to be content with “short thinking” that “does not look up and forward, but only here and now.” 

This week, on Monday, January 8, the Pope received the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, for his annual beginning of the year address. On Wednesday, January 10, he presided as usual over the general audience in the Paul VI Hall. Arriving on foot, he was all smiles, as French seminarians present at the audience told I.Media. On Thursday morning, however, he met two delegations and delivered his speeches without reading them.

Recurrent problem

This isn’t the Pope’s first bout of bronchitis. On November 30, he said he was suffering from “a very acute, infectious bronchitis,” a few days after having a CT scan at the Gemelli hospital in Rome to rule out pneumonia.

For a week, the Pontiff had been treated with antibiotics. Physically weakened, he recited two Sunday Angelus from his residence at Santa Marta’s — and not from St Peter’s Square – asking a prelate to read his catechesis. And on the advice of his doctors, he was forced to cancel his trip to Dubai, scheduled for December 1-3, to attend the COP28.  

A few months earlier, from March 29 to April 1, 2023, the Pontiff had been hospitalized at Rome’s Gemelli Polyclinic for a lung infection. After feeling unwell, he had to be taken to hospital.

The Holy Father is missing part of one lung from a severe infection he had as a young man.

Pope FrancisPope Francis healthVatican
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