The Vatican has officially informed the organizers of the Fourth World Meeting of Families, which is scheduled in
Manila on January 22 to 26 that Pope John Paul II will not be able to attend the celebration.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Socrates V. Villegas, spokesperson for Manila Archbishop Jaime L.
Cardinal Sin and chairman of the organizing committee for the world meefing, issued the following statement last August 26:
"The Vatican Secretary of State, His Eminence Angelo Cardinal
Sodano, has formally conveyed to the Archbishop of Manila the sad news that His Holiness Pope John Paul II will not be able to attend the IV World Meeting of Families in Manila in January 2003.
"The Holy Father is already praying that the World Meeting of Families will be crowned by success and will offer the participants an incentive for fresh enthusiasm in bearing witness to the
Gospel's teaching about life.
"Let us pray for the health and well-being of the Holy Father."
The news was met with disappointment among the Filipino faithful, who had looked
forward to a third visit by the Holy Father. The Pope made a pastoral visit to the Philippines in 1981, during which he beatified St. Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and companion marytyrs. He returned
for a second visit in 1995 for the celebration of the World Youth Day in Manila.
In the wake of the news, CBCP spokesperson, Msgr. Hernando M. Coronel, issued the following statement: "We
will surely miss the presence of the Holy Father. We will continue with the preparations for the world event of uniting families in Christ. We know that the Holy Father will be with us in spirit."