THE STAGE is being set for a third Philippine visit of Pope John Paul II as Manila has been chosen to host the 4th World Meeting of Families next year.

The Holy Father came to the Philippines in 1981 for the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz and in 1995 for the celebration of the 10th World Youth Day. He has chosen Manila as the venue for the next World Meeting of Families on Jan. 23 to 26, 2003.

The World Meeting of Families was initiated by the Pope in 1994, which he declared as the Year of the Family. Organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, the event takes place every three years, with the venue alternating between Rome and other cities.

Dubbed “The Christian Family: Good News for the Third Millennium,” the 2003 celebration was foremost in the discussions during the 84th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines last January.

As preparation for the event, a schedule of events has been set for the spiritual formation of all dioceses nationwide. This year, the designated special days of celebration are: March 19, Festival of Fathers; May 12, Festival of Mothers; and October 2, Festival of Children. The Festival of Families will be celebrated for the whole month of December.

The World Meeting of Families in January will feature an International Theological-Pastoral Congress that will reflect on and study the role of the Christian family in evangelization.

But old age and a knee ailment might stand in the way of the Pope’s visit.

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A persistent pain in his right knee has forced the 81-year-old Pontiff to reschedule a catechesis and cancel two visits to Roman parishes last March 5.

Asked by the Vatican Radio if the Holy Father’s knee problem would affect his upcoming appointments, especially in the long term, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls answered, “Absolutely not.”

But in a separate press statement, Navarro-Valls explained that “in consideration of the persistent symptoms of pain in the Pope’s right knee, (the doctor) has advised the Pope to take the necessary rest to adequately cure the discomfort.”

A Papal Legate will take the Pope’s place if he will not be able to come to Manila for the 2003 World Meeting of Families.

Early last year, European media made false reports that the Pope would retire after the Jubilee celebration.

The reports stemmed from his failing health, an attempt on his life in addition to old age and a history of successive surgeries. Alder T. Almo and Eldric Paul A. Peredo with reports from the Catholic News Service and the CBCP Monitor.


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