VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis joked on Thursday that he was still alive, after cancelling a trip to United Nations climate talks in Dubai due to the flu, saying doctors were worried about the heat there.
"As you can see, I am alive," the 86-year-old pontiff told an audience at the Vatican, according to an official transcript.
"The doctor didn't let me go to Dubai because it's very hot there and you go from the heat to air conditioning. And when you have bronchitis..."
"I thank God it wasn't pneumonia. It's very acute infectious bronchitis," the Argentine pope said in Spanish.
Francis, who had part of a lung removed when he was younger, on Tuesday cancelled his trip to the COP28 climate summit, which he had planned to attend from Friday to Sunday, following advice from his doctors.
The Vatican said he was on antibiotics for a lung inflammation that has caused him breathing difficulties but added in an update on Wednesday that he did not have a fever.
Francis, who has made protecting the environment a cornerstone of his 10-year papacy, had hoped to become the first pontiff to attend the UN event since the process began in 1995.
Instead, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will lead the Holy See's team at the climate talks, which began on Thursday.
The Vatican says the pope still hopes to be part of the climate discussions, but exactly how has yet to be announced.
Francis, who turns 87 next month, has suffered a series of health issues in recent years, from knee and hip pain to an inflamed colon and most recently, hernia surgery in June.
He was hospitalised for three nights in March with bronchitis, which was cured with antibiotics.
On Saturday, he cancelled events due to what the Vatican called "light flu symptoms".
It said that a CT scan had ruled out "risks of pulmonary complications".
The pope was forced to recite the traditional Angelus prayer on Sunday from his residence rather than overlooking Saint Peter's Square.
On Wednesday, Francis presided over his weekly audience at the Vatican but asked an aide to deliver his reading for him.
When he did speak, to admit: "I'm still not well with this flu," he sounded breathless.