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                                                                                                               Refer to: Ms. Dale Zapata

‘I am glad with Filipinos’ - Pope Benedict XVl
25 April  2005

VATICAN CITY. Pope Benedict XVl expressed gratitude to Filipinos for leading Roman Catholicism in Asia and for keeping the faith in God and Catholicism strong and firm. ‘I am happy that the Philippines remains the bastion of Catholicism in Asia and I am glad that Filipinos remain strong and firm in their faith in the Roman Catholic church,’ the Pope said to Vice President Noli ‘Kabayan’ De Castro.  For the longest time, the Philippines was the only predominantly Roman Catholic nation in Asia.  East Timor became the second Asian catholic nation when it gained independence recently.

Vice President Noli ‘Kabayan’ De Castro was received by the Holy Father prior to his first mass at the St Peter Square Sunday morning. De Castro headed the Philippine delegation during the investiture of Pope Benedict XVl.

For his part, Vice President De Castro appealed to the new Pope to ‘pray for the Philippines and for the strengthening of Filipino families’ during these challenging times.

De Castro described his audience with the Pope as ‘very touching, encouraging and a humbling experience’. De Castro, then an anchorman of the popular TV Patrol, was, at one moment, ‘touched and teary-eyed’ while hosting the live news coverage of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines during the World Youth Day celebration in 1995.

Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Leonida Vera, Philippine Ambassador to Italy Philip Lhullier and Catherine de Castro accompanied Vice President De Castro in his audience with the Pope.

Earlier, the Vice President met with Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Jose Cardinal Sanchez and other leaders of the Filipino community in Rome where he conveyed the message of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to Pope Benedict XVl. The greetings of President Arroyo were handed over by the Vice President to Cardinal Sodano, the Vatican’s Secretary of State.

He said that Filipinos in Rome and the Vatican have the responsibility to pray and pray harder for the attainment of peace and development of Philippines as they are very near to the ‘power centre of prayer’.  

“Kailangan ng mga kababayan ninyo sa Pilipinas ang patuloy ninyong pagdarasal para sa ating bansa at para sa ating Pangulo upang lalong sumulong ang pag-unlad ng ating bayan,” Vice President told the Filipino community in Rome after hearing mass at Urbana Church, outside the Vatican City. The mass was especially organized and celebrated for the Filipino community in honour of the new Pope.

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