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Fragile Pope Francis, 87, cancels meetings due to illness in latest health scare – after he told TV interviewer he is ‘Still alive, you know’


A fragile Pope Francis has cancelled meetings as he battles a bout of flu.

The 87-year-old was forced to cancel some of his activities in November due to breathing problems and concerns over his lungs.

This is not the first time the pontiff has suffered with lung issues.

Following an operation to remove one of his lungs when he was younger and still in his native Argentina, Pope Francis has been plagued by health issues  – the latest included a stay in hospital last year.

When asked about his fragile health in a recent TV interview, Pope Francis quipped he was ‘still alive, you know.’.

A fragile Pope Francis has cancelled meetings as he battles a bout of flu (pictured) Francis arriving at his weekly audience on February 14 2024

A fragile Pope Francis has cancelled meetings as he battles a bout of flu (pictured) Francis arriving at his weekly audience on February 14 2024

The 87-year-old has already been forced to cancel some of his activities in November due to breathing problems and concerns over his lungs

The 87-year-old has already been forced to cancel some of his activities in November due to breathing problems and concerns over his lungs

When asked about his health in recent interview the pope answered: 'still alive, you know.'

When asked about his health in recent interview the pope answered: ‘still alive, you know.’

Despite his ailing health, the pope has no intention of retiring any time soon but has made plans for a ‘simple funeral’.

The head of the Catholic Church has been in and out of hospital for the past few years, spending three days at Rome’s Gemelli hospitalin April last year fighting bronchitis on intravenous antibiotics.

In 2021 the 87-year-old spent 10 days in hospital recovering from intestinal surgery for a bowel narrowing and was readmitted in June 2023 for an operation to repair an abdominal hernia and remove scarring from his previous surgeries.

With his shaky health in mind, he has already planned his funeral, opting to be buried in Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, making him the first pontiff to be buried outside the Vatican in more than a century. 

Francis goes to the basilica to pray before the Salus populi Romani (‘Salvation of the people of Rome’), a Byzantine-style painting that features an image of Mary, draped in a blue robe, holding the infant Jesus who in turn is holding a jewelled golden book.

‘It’s my great devotion,’ Francis said, adding that he had already decided he wanted to be buried nearby in the basilica. ‘The place is already prepared.’

Many popes are buried in the crypts beneath St. Peter’s Basilica.

Despite his ailing health, the pope has no intention of retiring any time soon but has made plans for a 'simple funeral' (pictured) Francis arriving at an Ash Wednesday service in a wheelchair

Despite his ailing health, the pope has no intention of retiring any time soon but has made plans for a ‘simple funeral’ (pictured) Francis arriving at an Ash Wednesday service in a wheelchair

Francis has said he would be ready to resign - as Benedict did in 2013 - if his health became extremely bad

Francis has said he would be ready to resign – as Benedict did in 2013 – if his health became extremely bad

The last pope to be buried outside the Vatican was Leo XIII, who died in 1903 and is buried in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

Francis has said he would be ready to resign – as Benedict did in 2013 – if his health became extremely bad.

‘I ask the Lord to say enough, at some point, but when he wants me to,’ he said.

But, he said, he also believes that papal resignations should not become the norm. 

Pope Francis has previously asked for prayers as he deals with the limitations of old age.

‘It is true that all journeys are now all rethought,’ Francis told N+. ‘If they’re close by, they can be done. If they’re farther away they are rethought. There are limits.’

Francis disclosed that he has been working with the Vatican’s master of ceremonies, Archbishop Diego Ravelli, to simplify the elaborate, book-long funeral rites for a pope that have been used for his predecessors.

The pope, who turned 87 at the end of last 2023, has shunned much of the Vatican’s pomp and privilege, and has decided to vastly simplify the elaborate funeral rites.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has shunned the crimson, fur-trimmed ‘mozzetta’, or cape, and also does not wear a gold cross but has kept around his neck the same faded silver-plated one he used as archbishop of Buenos Aires.

He also has not used the plush red ‘shoes of the fisherman’ used by his predecessors. He has kept the same simple black shoes he always used and wears a plastic watch, giving others away so they could be auctioned off for charity.



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