POPE JOINS WORLD FAMILY MEET TODAY VIA SATELLITE

Manila, Jan. 25, 2003 (By Sandy Araneta, Star) - Pope John Paul II will participate today in the ongoing 4th World Meeting of Families in Manila via satellite from the Vatican, conference organizers announced yesterday.

"This marks a first in the history of the papacy, when the wonders of satellite television will make possible a live interaction of this kind between the Pope and the faithful in two different locations," organizers said in a statement.

This will make thousands of conference delegates feel that the Pope is actually present at the venue, they added. Today's conference will be held at Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park. The Pontiff will broadcast from the Vatican's Clementine Room.

Organizers earlier said conference attendance was down perhaps due to the Pope's absence. The Pope last visited Manila in 1995 during World Youth Day.

They originally expected the international conference on strengthening families to draw 10,000 local and foreign delegates. Up to ten million people are expected to join the Mass and prayer vigil at Rizal Park in Manila on the last day of the event.

The Pope was to have visited Asia's only pre-dominantly Roman Catholic nation from January 23-26 and one of the highlights was to have been an address at the conference.

In August last year, the Vatican announced that the visit had been canceled. No reasons were given, but church officials had previously said the visit would depend on the pontiff's health.

That month, the 82-year-old Pope made a four-day visit to his homeland Poland, but was in poor health. He told residents in Krakow that it was his farewell visit.


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