WORLD  LEADERS  GATHER  IN  ROME

VATICAN CITY, April 6, 2005 (STAR) Political and religious leaders as well as royals from around the world are expected to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday at the Vatican.

His body will be buried in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in line with tradition, rather than in his native Poland.

Among the world leaders who have confirmed their attendance at the Pope’s funeral are US President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

President Arroyo and her official delegation are scheduled to fly to Rome tonight on a chartered Philippine Airlines flight.

Malacañang said presidential daughter Evangeline Lourdes is among family members who will join the President in the trip.

Mrs. Arroyo and her party will return to Manila on Saturday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye acknowledged that Social Security System chairman Thelmo Cunanan would be part of Mrs. Arroyo’s official party.

However, the name of Cunanan’s wife Belinda has been removed from the official delegation, Bunye said.

Apart from Cunanan, other members of the official delegation are Bunye, Ambassador to the Holy See Leonida Vera, former ambassador to the Holy See Howard Dee, Batangas Rep. Herminigildo Mandanas, Deputy Executive Secretary for finance and administration Susana Vargas, Philippine Consul in New York Linglingay Lacanlale and Speaker Jose de Venecia’s wife Gina.

Also joining the trip are Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, Bishop Antonio Ledesma, Bishop Socrates Villegas, Bishop Juan de los Pueblos, Bishop Oscar Solis, Father Leonardo Mercado, Sisters Luz Solijon, Ma. Luz Mijares and Clarissa Belleke and Theresa Tunay, CBCP Monitor editor.

In Washington, Bush said he would express the gratitude of Americans for the life of Pope John Paul II when he leads a US delegation to Vatican City as the first sitting president to attend a pope’s funeral.

It will be "my great honor, on behalf of our country, to express our gratitude to the Almighty for such a man," he said.

"And of course we look forward to the majesty of celebrating such a significant human life." Press Secretary Scott McClellan said US First Lady Laura Bush and three other people also would attend the funeral Friday as part of the US delegation.

McClellan said arrangements were still being made and the final names would be announced Tuesday.

McClellan said the Bushes will leave Washington on Wednesday for the funeral and fly to Texas afterward.

Bush plans to have one-on-one meetings with one or two other foreign leaders, while they are gathered in Rome the day before the funeral, the spokesman added.

Bush had met with the Pope John Paul II three times during his presidency.

The first time was in July 2001 when he and the First Lady visited Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence south of Rome.

"I can remember him taking us out on the balcony of this fabulous palace overlooking a magnificent lake and talking about his views of the world," he said.

"It was a moment I’ll never forget during my presidency."

Bush said the Pope will be remembered for the huge influence he had on the lives of young people around the world and how he demonstrated that one man can make a difference in people’s lives.

"He’s a courageous person," he said. "He’s a moral person. He was a godly person."

Bush said he understood John Paul’s opposition to the US-led war on Iraq, an issue the Pope raised with the President at a Vatican meeting last June.

"And of course he was a man of peace, he didn’t like war, and I fully understood that, and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject," he said.

Many countries and royal courts have not yet announced whom they will send to the funeral, but the following is a preliminary list of some of the main figures who are attending or are expected to attend:

Political leaders

Argentina: Vice President Daniel Scioli, Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa

Austria: President Heinz Fischer

Belgium: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt

Bolivia: Foreign Minister Juan Ignacio Siles

Brazil: President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Britain: Prime Minister Tony Blair

Canada: Prime Minister Paul Martin

Colombia: Vice President Francisco Santos

Costa Rica: President Abel Pacheco, Foreign Minister Roberto Tovar

Croatia: President Stipe Mesic

Democratic Republic of Congo: President Joseph Kabila

European Union: Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

France: President Jacques Chirac

Germany: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, President Horst Koehler

Guatemala: Vice President Eduardo Stein, Foreign Minister Jorge Briz

India: Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekawat

Indonesia: Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab, Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Freddy Numberi

Ireland: Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, President Mary McAleese

Luxembourg: Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker

Mexico: President Vicente Fox

Philippines: President Gloria Arroyo

Poland: President Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president Lech Walesa, Prime Minister Marek Belka

Portugal: President Jorge Sampaio, Foreign Minister Diogo Freitas do Amaral

Romania: Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu

Russia: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov

Serbia-Montenegro: President Svetozar Marovic, Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic

Spain: Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero

Syria: President Bashar al-Assad

United Nations: Secretary General Kofi Annan

United States: President George W. Bush

Venezuela: Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez

Royals

Belgium: King Albert II and Queen Paola

Britain: Prince Charles

Luxembourg: Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa

Spain: King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia

Religious leaders

Metropolitan Kirill, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Foreign Church Relations Department, of the Russian Orthodox Church Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Greek Orthodox Church — With Aurea Calica, Rainier Allan Ronda, AFP


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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