Pope Francis delivered written instead of verbal remarks on Monday in a meeting with a delegation of European rabbis because he has a slight cold, according to the Vatican.
The health of the pope, 86, has been a closely watched topic after a number of medical scares in recent years — several of which required hospitalization — and the Vatican was quick to stress that Monday’s move was nothing serious.
The pope thanked the rabbis for coming but said, “I am not feeling well, and so I prefer not to read the speech but give you a copy so you may have it.”
In the prepared text, Francis condemned a rise in antisemitic attacks and made a veiled reference to the Israel-Hamas war. The speech ended with the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom.”
The Vatican said in a statement that the pope had “a bit of a cold and a long day of audiences,” but that he had individually greeted every member of the delegation from the Conference of European Rabbis, which represents 700 religious leaders.
“The pope’s activities continue as normal,” the statement said.
After meeting with the rabbis, Francis delivered a prepared speech to a volunteer association from Sicily. He also met with the new Brazilian and Swiss ambassadors to the Vatican and was expected to attend a gathering with about 7,000 children from around the world on Monday afternoon.
The pope’s health — who now frequently uses a cane or a wheelchair because of knee problems and sciatica — has been of increasing concern in recent years. He underwent major intestinal surgery in the summer of 2021, having roughly 13 inches of his large intestine removed because of what the Vatican said was inflammation that had caused a narrowing of his colon. In March of this year, he was treated for bronchitis that required hospitalization. Then in June, he spent nine days in the hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery.
Francis resumed a packed schedule after the latest surgery. In the months since his release from the hospital, he has traveled to Portugal, spent four days in Mongolia and taken a short trip to Marseille. The pope is scheduled to travel to Dubai next month for the United Nations climate summit.
Asked about his health during a televised interview on Italy’s national broadcaster RAI earlier this month, Francis said he still had a problem with his knee but that it was improving. He also mentioned his recent surgeries, saying: “now I am doing very well. I can eat everything.”