[PHOTO  AT LEFT - G.M.A. ATTENDS CANONIZATION RITES AT THE VATICAN. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (right, background) attends open-air mass at St. Peter s Square celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI (left) on Sunday, June 3, 2007, at the canonization rites for Blessed Marie Eugenie, founders of the Religious of Assumption, and three other saints, namely, Karel Van Sint Andres Houben, Szymon z Lipnicy, and Gregorio Preca.]

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2007 (BULLETIN) By FIL C. SIONIL  ó President Arroyo braved a downpour yesterday to witness the canonization of St. Anne Marie Eugenie, the foundress of the Religious of Assumption, here at St. Peterís Square.

The sanctification of St. Anne Marie along with three others followed an hour-long Sunday mass marking the feast of the Holy Trinity led by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

Thousands of people did not mind the rain as they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Mrs. Arroyo took her designated seat, situated at the left side of the altar, around 9:30 a.m. She was wearing the mandatory black dress and was holding her very own umbrella.

Journalists traveling with the President also saw Riza Bondoc, the Filipino girl instrumental in the canonization of the Assumption foundress.

According to the Catholic Free Press, a weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Worcester, St. Anne Marie performed a miracle on Bondoc, a girl who was born "with a condition that prevented the two halves of her brain from joining."

Although she still has the medical condition, Bondoc "walks, talks and attends school," something that canít be explained by doctors and scientists.

The 12-year-old Bondoc was accompanied by her mom, Carmen, in Rome. Her father, Ditos, stayed in Manila as he is reportedly ill.

Bondoc became an instant celebrity in Rome, with both Filipino and foreign journalists begging her for an interview.

"She was looked upon as if she is also a saint with some people touching her face," Baby Ledesma, president of the Assumption Alumni Association, said.

The canonization was the first official schedule of the President here. She arrived here around 10 p.m. Saturday via PAL flight PR 001 from Manila and was welcomed by Counsellor Antonio Cazella of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Also on hand to welcome Mrs. Arroyo were Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Leonida Vera and Ambassador to Rome Philippe Lhuillier.

From the airport, the President and her party -- including Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, his wife Lovely, and Gina de Venecia, wife of re-electionist Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Ė checked in at the St. Regis Hotel.

Mrs. Arroyo looked fresh despite only having a very short sleep during the trip and was all smiles when she entered the hotel where she was greeted by her schoolmates in the Assumption Convent.

While on board, the President walked through her scheduled in China, including working on her speech.

The President spent her lunch in the company of Assumption alumni before meeting representatives of the Philippine community here.

Today, Monday, she is scheduled to have an audience with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Sala del Trono of the Apostolic Palace, to be followed by a meeting with Secretary of State, His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone.

From here, the President and her party will fly to Lisbon Portugal where she will visit, among others, the site of Our Lady of Fatima.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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