ASIDE from Pope Benedict XVI, Spain’s king and queen have turned down an invitation to grace the 400th year celebration of the Pontifical and Royal university.

Vice Rector Fr. Pablo Tiong, O.P., in an interview, confirmed that King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain will not attend UST’s Quadricentennial in January next year.

“They (king and queen of Spain) will designate a special representative, but I do not know if it will be a member of the royal family,” he added.

Tiong said the Spanish throne did not give a reason for the rejection of UST’s invitation.

Last May 7, papal nuncio Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams wrote a letter to Filipino bishops saying the pope won’t make it to the 2011 festivities. He did not state the reason.

CBCP News, the official news agency of the CBCP, reported that the Pope will instead send his representative to grace the event, the name of which will be published on L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, on November 27.

“The Holy Father will not be coming to Manila for the anniversary, but given the importance of the quadricentennial celebrations of the university, His Holiness will be sending for the occasion his special envoy, whose name will be published in L’osservatore Romano the afternoon of Saturday, 27 November 2010,” A dams said in news published at the CBCP website (cbcpnews.com).

Tiong said the Pope’s non-acceptance of the invitation was expected.

“Inasmuch as we would like that the Pope be around on [January 2011]… we had to be realistic. We are aware of so many factors that may prevent him from coming.

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He has his hands full of so many problems and issues right now,” Tiong said.

But Tiong admitted the Pope’s absence in the Quadricentennial will reduce the hype of the celebration.

“[The Pope’s absence] will tone down a bit the level of celebration, but the Pope’s attendance is not absolutely essential, the event will go on,” he added.

“We invited the Pope for the January 2011 celebration and that was the invitation which was refused. We have not invited the Pope for the closing ceremonies,” Tiong said.

Meanwhile, Tiong said the royal couple of Spain were the only heads of state invited to the Quadricentennial, but foreign diplomats were also given invitations.

“The designation ‘royal’ is by now a historical title and not a functional title anymore, in a sense that the title does not oblige doing anything special for the king and queen of Spain,” he said.

In 1785, King Charles III gave the title “Royal” to the University, while in 1902 through a papal decree, Pope Leo XIII bestowed the title “Pontifical” to UST, putting the University directly under the Holy See.

In the last decades, UST was paid visits by popes and a Spanish King: Pope Paul VI in 1970, King Carlos I in 1974 and 1995, and Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.

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