Pope cancels visit to Philippines

 Pope John Paul II has cancelled plans for a visit to the Philippines in January for 'an unspecified reason', a church official said yesterday. "The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Sodano, has informed the Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin about the sad news," said Sin's spokesman, Mgr Socrates Villages. The Pope had been planning to attend the World Meeting of Families, a three-yearly international religious conference focusing on family values. The event will open in Manila next January 22 - the first time it has ever been hosted in Asia. Despite concerns that the 82-year-old pontiff would not be able to make it because of health problems, church officials already had begun preparations by holding prayer rallies and meetings with security officials. During the Pope's 1995 Manila visit, Philippine security officials foiled a plot by a group of foreign Muslim extremists to assassinate him. Crowds of more than five million Filipinos welcomed the Pope during that visit. source: cinjub