Aquino, Pope Francis to meet at Vatican
ROME—President Benigno Aquino III and Pope Francis will meet on Friday morning at the Vatican, where the two leaders are expected to talk about the ongoing rehabilitation efforts for the survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) and the threat of terrorism, among others.
Aquino’s private audience with the Holy Father is scheduled at 10 a.m. (5 p.m. in Manila) at the Apostolic Palace.
Their meeting takes place on the heels of presidential candidate Davao City Rodrigo Duterte’s hurling an invective at Pope Francis for causing the massive traffic jam in Metro Manila during his Papal visit to the country in January.
Duterte has since backtracked after receiving flak from the predominantly Catholic electorate.
He claimed he was cussing the government, not the Pope, for its failure to implement a traffic management plan during the Papal visit. Duterte also implied he had been abused by priests at the Ateneo de Davao when he was a child.
President Aquino has yet to issue a statement on Duterte’s latest antic.
The Philippines’ Ambassador to the Holy See Merceditas Tuason will accompany President Aquino at the meeting with the Pope.
His Holiness Pope Francis will be accompanied by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with State Monsignor Seamus Horgan.
“The visit of President Benigno Aquino with Pope Francis at the Vatican is significant because it is a way of returning the thoughtfulness of the Holy Father in making a special journey to the Philippines. The President’s visit is also a reminder to his Holiness that our thoughts and prayers are with him,” Tuason told Radio TV Malacañang.
Aquino will have a separate meeting with Cardinal Parolin after his meeting with the Pope.
The President will also attend the unveiling and blessing of the Mosaic Image of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia at the Vatican Gardens.
A press conference with the Philippine media wraps up the President’s six-day working visit to Paris, Rome, and the Vatican.
Aquino will fly back to Manila at 5 p.m. on Friday (12 midnight Saturday in Manila).
He is scheduled to arrive at 1:55 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). CDG