Cardinal Parolin Will Represent Pope Francis at Climate Conference

Cardinal Pietro Parolin. | Claude Truong-Ngoc via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin will head the Vatican’s delegation to the COP28 climate conference in place of Pope Francis, who continues to recover from an acute bronchial infection. 

“I can confirm that the cardinal secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, will preside over the Delegation of the Holy See already present in Dubai on the occasion of COP28 to bring, on Saturday, Dec. 2, the contribution that the Holy Father would have liked to make,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement released Friday. 

The conference began on Thursday and will conclude Dec. 12.

In the days leading up the announcement, Parolin hinted that he would be going to the conference, telling journalists gathered at the lower chamber of the Italian Parliament: “I have usually participated in all of them, starting with the COP in Paris and all the COPs, so I think I will go this time, too, but obviously shortening my stay.” 

“There is the delegation that stays for the whole two weeks of the works; I would only participate in the first part of the works,” Parolin said. 


The Vatican announced on Tuesday that it was canceling the 86-year-old pontiff’s trip to Dubai at the behest of his doctors. The pope has been struggling since last week with both a mild flu and lingering symptoms from that illness.

Francis said Thursday that he was still struggling with an acute bronchial infection stemming from the flu infection. The Vatican subsequently reported that the pope’s condition was improving, though he was still on an intravenous antibiotic treatment. 

“As you see, I am alive. The doctor didn’t let me go to Dubai. The reason is that it is very hot there, and you go from the heat to the air conditioning,” Pope Francis informed participants in a health ethics seminar at the Vatican on Nov. 30.

Pope Francis shared his hopes for the conference in a Thursday post on X.

“May participants in #COP28 be strategists who focus on the common good and the future of their children, rather than the vested interests of certain countries or businesses. May they demonstrate the nobility of politics and not its shame,” he said.

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The Conference of the Parties is an annual climate change summit of the United Nations, held since 1995, that brings together states and nonstate actors in order to discuss meeting current benchmarks in the reduction of carbon emissions and to spearhead initiatives.

The participants include the countries that are signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). One of the major achievements of the COP was the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement during COP21 in 2015.

Parolin will deliver the remarks originally prepared for the pope on Saturday. The following day, he will preside over the inauguration of an interfaith pavilion alongside Spanish Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, an expert on Islam and current prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue. 

This is the first time that there will be a faith pavilion at the conference. Hosted by the Muslim Council of Elders, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the COP28 presidency, and an array of other faith-based partners, the venue will feature more than 65 sessions for “religious and other civil society representatives, Indigenous peoples, scientists, youth, and political leaders,” according to the pavilion’s website.