Pope Francis on Monday skipped reading a prepared speech for a meeting with European rabbis, telling them he was not feeling well, and the Vatican said he was suffering from a slight cold but would go ahead with his other engagements for the day.
“Good morning. I greet you all and I welcome you and thank you for this visit, which greatly pleases me,” he told a delegation from the Conference of European Rabbis.
“But it happens that I am not well and because of this I prefer not to read the speech but give you a copy,” he said.
Francis appeared to be short of breath as he greeted the rabbis at the start of the meeting, and the cancellation of his speech set off a brief health scare for the 86-year-old pontiff.
Francis is missing part of one lung, which was removed when he was a young man in his native Argentina.
“Pope Francis has a bit of a cold and a long day of audiences,” Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
“He wanted to greet the European rabbis individually and so he gave them his written speech. The remainder of his activities continues regularly,” Bruni said.
In the past, Francis has not read prepared speeches at the last minute in order to preserve his strength. He has a big gathering with children from around the world scheduled for later on Monday at the Vatican.
The pope had surgery on June 7 to repair an abdominal hernia. He spent nine days in hospital and appears to have recovered completely from that operation.
He has made three trips abroad since the surgery and is scheduled to go to Dubai next month for the COP28 United Nations climate summit.