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Pope Francis cancels a meeting with Rome deacons because of mild flu, the Vatican says

Pope Francis leaves after presiding over the liturgy of the ashes in the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis leaves after presiding over the liturgy of the ashes in the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) 鈥 Pope Francis has canceled an audience scheduled for Saturday as a precaution after coming down with mild flu, the Vatican press office said in a short statement, without adding further details.

Francis was scheduled to meet with Rome deacons in the morning.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said later Saturday that the pope鈥檚 weekly Sunday Angelus address was still to be confirmed, and that no further health updates were expected for the day.

The 87-year-old pontiff has had several health problems in recent years. In late November, he was forced to cancel some of his activities and an international trip because of breathing problems. A scan at the time ruled out lung complications. Francis had a part of one lung removed when he was young and still living in his native Argentina.

In April, the pope spent three days at Rome鈥檚 Gemelli hospital for what the Vatican said was bronchitis. He was discharged after receiving intravenous antibiotics.

Francis also spent 10 days at the same hospital in July 2021 following intestinal surgery for narrowing of the bowel. He was readmitted in June 2023 for an operation to repair an abdominal hernia and remove scarring from previous surgeries.

When asked about his health in a recent television interview, Francis quipped what has become his standard line: 鈥淪till alive, you know.鈥

Over the past two years, Francis has indicated several times that he would be ready to step down, following the example of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, if his health deteriorates to the point that it becomes an impediment to him leading the Catholic Church. However, in a TV interview last month, he said he felt in good health and denied immediate plans to resign.

Speculation about Francis鈥 health and the future of his pontificate has risen following Benedict鈥檚 death in late 2022. Benedict鈥檚 resignation in 2013 marked a turning point for the church, as he became the first pontiff in six centuries to step down.