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Pope Francis skips reading at audience, says he still has a cold

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis skipped a reading at his Wednesday weekly audience, delegating the task to an aide and telling the faithful he was still not well.

The 87-year-old pontiff, who has had a number of health issues recently, had cancelled appointments on Saturday and on Monday due to what the Vatican called a mild flu.

On Sunday, he addressed crowds in St Peter's Square as normal, to deliver his Angelus message.

"Dear brothers and sisters, I still have a bit of a cold," Francis said, announcing that someone else would read his catechesis on envy and vainglory, two of the seven deadly sins.

The reading was about one page long.

The pope did not read either a speech for a meeting earlier Wednesday with Armenian bishops, leaving that too to an aide, the Vatican said.

The pope did speak at the end of his audience, his voice sounding hoarse and coughing a bit, to greet some of the faithful and issue calls for peace, as is customary.

He mentioned conflicts in Ukraine, Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as recent deadly attacks against a Catholic church and a mosque in Burkina Faso, and continuing violence in Haiti.

He also condemned the use of anti-personnel landmines, calling them "devious devices," and recalling that March 1 marks the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of a UN convention banning them.

In December, the pope was forced to cancel a planned trip to a COP28 climate meeting in Dubai because of the effects of influenza and lung inflammation.

In January, he was unable to complete a speech owing to "a touch of bronchitis." Later in the month he said he was doing better despite "some aches and pains."

As a young man in his native Argentina, Francis had part of a lung removed.

The pope also has difficulty walking, and regularly uses a wheelchair or a cane. On Wednesday, he arrived at his indoor audience in a wheelchair. — Reuters