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Howard set to meet Pope

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he was looking forward to meeting Pope John Paul II this weekend as part of a two-week visit to Europe.

Speaking to reporters at Sydney Airport last Sunday, Mr Howard said he would not be discussing the Church's handling of sex abuse in Australia.

"I don't think that is really my role," he said. "That is a matter entirely for the Catholic Church and it's not my place to get involved in that."

The Prime Minister said he thought it was appropriate that he call on the Holy Father.

"I'll convey to him the good wishes I know of Australia Catholics and Australians generally," he said.

"Quite apart from his leadership of the Catholic Church, he has been a major world figure in the time that he has been the Pope and I don't think anybody will forget the contribution that he made in the spiritual leadership for the people of his native Poland in their struggle against communism."

Mr Howard will become the first Australian Prime Minister since Bob Hawke to meet the Pope.

Prime Minister's Website
Visit to Europe (Media Release from the Prime Minister)

Catholic Leader

5 Jul 2002