Pope Francis reads speeches unassisted for the first time in nearly two weeks

Pope Francis greets members of Italy’s National Association of St. Paul on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2023 / 11:16 am (CNA).

Pope Francis had seven meetings Thursday morning where he read out three speeches unassisted for the first time in nearly two weeks.

The pope, who has been recovering from a bout of bronchitis, said that he was feeling “much better” on Wednesday, but opted to have an aide read his general audience catechesis, explaining to the crowd that he still had difficulties if he “talks too much.”

The following day, the pope seemed to show improvement in this respect as well by reading out his speeches during his meetings on Dec. 7 with members of the Focolare Movement, Italy’s National Association of St. Paul, and new ambassadors to the Holy See. 

Pope Francis could be seen reading the speeches in videos released by Vatican Media, one day after the Italian news aggregator site “Il Sismografo” published a commentary saying the pope’s “health condition does not look good,” citing the pope’s decision not to read his speeches aloud.

Since Nov. 26, the pope has only offered brief off-the-cuff remarks during many of his audiences, while his longer prepared speeches were either read by an aide or distributed to his guests, as Pope Francis recovered from what he has described as “very acute infectious bronchitis.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, also read Francis’ keynote speech to the UN’s COP28 climate conference on Dec. 2 after the pope’s trip to the climate summit in Dubai was canceled at the request of his doctors.

In addition to his three speeches on Thursday, Pope Francis had private meetings with the former archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit; Archbishop Yagop Jacques Mourad of Homs, Syria; Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawłowski, the apostolic nuncio to Greece; and Archbishop Nareg Alemezian of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Pope Francis at his audience with Italy’s National Association of St. Paul on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis, who turns 87 this month, is scheduled to preside over a ceremony on Dec. 8 honoring the Virgin Mary in the piazza below Rome’s Spanish Steps and deliver a special Friday Angelus address to mark the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Vatican has not disclosed whether any special accommodations, including having an aide read his speeches, could be made for the pope during his busy schedule on the Marian feast day.

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