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No pope for congress

MANILA (Agencies) : The much anticipated presence of Pope Francis at the International Eucharistic Congress during January next year is not to be.

Although his presence was originally anticipated, Pope Francis will not attend the 51st congress in Cebu City, the head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, announced on July 13.

But Archbishop Villegas said the Vatican will send an envoy on behalf of the pope, as has been the custom at previous congresses around the world.

“He is not coming. That’s sure already,” Archbishop Villegas told CBCP News, while admitting no direct message had come from the Vatican at that stage.

He said that the archdiocese of Cebu made a number of adjustments to accommodate the pope’s schedule for 2016, including changing of the proposed date, which was originally slated for June.

Archbishop Villegas ruled out another papal visit to The Philippines since the Vatican has hinted that an envoy will arrive instead. He also stressed the significance of the pontiff sending of an official representative in his stead.

“The sending of a papal envoy is like, I’m there with you,” he explained.

“Let us give other countries the chance to see him. Because if we insist, it is as if we’re being selfish, because it will lessen his opportunities to visit other countries,” Archbishop Villegas said.

The event is set for January 24 to 31 and is expected to draw 15,000 visitors from all over the world.

 

The Philippines first hosted one of the most remarkable worldwide Church events in 1937 when the 33rd congress was held in Manila.