Pope Francis Says He Has "very acute infectious bronchitis"

Pope Francis meets participants in the Ethics of Healthcare Management seminar on Nov. 30, 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis told health care professionals on Thursday that he has “very acute infectious bronchitis” and was advised not to travel to Dubai to avoid the extreme change in temperature.

The pope, who will turn 87 on Dec. 17, quipped, “As you can see, I am alive,” as he met participants in a health care ethics seminar in a morning audience at the Vatican.

“Thank God it wasn’t pneumonia. It is a very acute, infectious bronchitis. I do not have a fever anymore, but am still on antibiotics and such,” Pope Francis said on Nov. 30.

Despite feeling under the weather, the pope maintained a very full schedule on Thursday with nine official meetings scheduled for the morning, including an audience with the International Theological Commission, bishops from Canada, and German Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim.

The Vatican has described the pope’s health condition as “influenza” with “lung inflammation” that has caused him some “breathing difficulties.”


Acute bronchitis is an inflammation of the airways leading into the lungs (called bronchi) that can be caused by the same viruses as the flu but may also be caused by a bacterial infection.

Bronchitis is a different, but common complication of influenza that can cause a nagging cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. Acute bronchitis can be contagious, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A CT scan at a Rome hospital on Nov. 25 “ruled out pneumonia,” according to the Vatican.

On Nov. 28, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said that the pope’s doctors had advised him not to travel to Dubai this week for the United Nations COP28 climate conference because the pope had “the flu and inflammation of the respiratory tract.”

Pope Francis himself explained the decision on Thursday in his off-the-cuff remarks in Spanish to the health care seminar.

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“The doctor did not let me go to Dubai. The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from heat to air conditioning,” he said, noting that this temperature change would not be good for his “bronchial condition.”

Pope Francis was hospitalized in March due to a respiratory infection and complained that he was not feeling well on Nov. 6, following which the Vatican said that the pope had “a bit of a cold.”

In his brief speech to the Ethics of Healthcare Management seminar, Pope Francis said that he was a fan of “preventive medicine.”

“Health is like a contrary thing; it is strong and fragile ... Poorly cared for health gives way to fragility. I like preventive medicine very much because it prevents before events occur,” Pope Francis said.

“I thank you for coming and forgive me for not being able to talk anymore, but I don’t have the energy,” he added.


Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.