Pope Francis cancels presence at COP28 climate conference due to health, while other faith leaders attend

(Photo: Valter Muniz/WCC)Part of the WCC delegation on the first day of COP28 in Duba. From left: Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, Presbyterian Church USA, Athena Peralta, WCC, Rev. Henrik Grape, WCC, Joy Kennedy, United Church of Canada, Manoj Kurian, WCC, Rev Chebon Kernell, Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, Julia Rensberg, Church of Sweden, and Rev. Jerry Pillay, WCC general secretary.

A heavy bout of influenza has forced Pope Francis to cancel his journey to Dubai for the COP 28 climate conference hosted by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates.

COP 28 opened on Nov. 30 and runs until Dec. 12.

It is the 28th annual United Nations (UN) climate meeting where governments will discuss how to limit climate change and to prepare for its future impact.

Faith organizations will have a visible presence at the summit where world leaders will make decisions affecting the future of creation.

"COP28 paves the way for deeper and more effective and meaningful engagement of faith communities in addressing the climate emergency," said World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Jerry Pillay.

"I am pleased that religious leaders were able to meet in advance to issue a statement as a contribution and stance on the catastrophic climate situation we are already facing."

The climate change summit opened in Dubai as the UN chief Antonio Guterres confirmed that 2023 will be the hottest year on record.

"We are living through climate collapse in real time," António Guterres said pleading with world leaders to act.

Meanwhile the Holy See said in a press release on Nov. 29, "The condition of the Holy Father is stable; he does not have a fever, but the lung inflammation associated with respiratory difficulties persists. Antibiotic therapy continues."

Earlier, Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin confirmed that the Pope is recovering well from the flu and lung inflammation, which made him decide on Tuesday to cancel his journey to Dubai


"The Pope is on the mend; he just didn't want to expose himself to risks, following the advice of his doctors," said the Cardinal.

"I believe he made this choice to avoid a relapse so he can recover as soon as possible," Cardinal Parolin told journalists.

Cardinal Parolin confirmed that the Holy See is studying the "modalities" by which the Pope will take part in the discussions in Dubai.

He explained that he will take care of the interreligious dialogue part, i.e., the signing of a document scheduled for December at the inauguration of the Faith Pavilion in the Expo City area.

The BBC noted in a report that controversially, a host of the summit, the UAE is one of the world's top oil-producing nations, with oil boss Sultan al-Jaber overseeing the summit.

In a positive move on the opening day of the climate conference, the delegates approved proposals to introduce a loss and damage fund that channel money to countries hit badly by climate-related disasters.

This is something long sought by developing countries and is a "positive signal of momentum", according to COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber.

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