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Pope to skip Philippines visit

Pope John Paul II will not visit the Philippines early next year, the Vatican said yesterday, despite what officials had said was his personal desire to go.

The Vatican had never confirmed the trip, which would have been the pope's third to the predominantly Catholic country. But the announcement that he wouldn't go underscored his increasingly frail health.

As recently as this month, Vatican officials had said the Holy Father wanted to attend the World Meeting of Families in Manila in January.

"The pope's desire to go to the Philippines is well known," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said earlier this month in a bid to counter speculation that the pope would have to slow down because of his health.

However, the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, informed Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin about "the sad news," Sin's spokesman, Monsignor Socrates Villages, said on Monday.

A Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Sodano had sent a letter to Sin informing him of the decision.

However, the official stressed that it "doesn't mean that the pope is stopping his travels." Vatican officials have said a trip to Croatia is being planned for next spring.

The pope has named Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Vatican's office on the family, as his envoy for the meeting in the Philippines.

Travels of the Holy Father
4th World Meeting of Families, Manila 2003


27 Aug 2002