Philippine Bishops Move International Eucharistic Congress to January from May 2016 to Accommodate Sked of Pope Francis

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By Vittorio Hernandez | May 24, 2013 10:39 AM EST

There is a big chance that Pope Francis would visit the Philippines in 2016 to attend the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu.

To accommodate the pontiff's tight schedule, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) gave in to the request of the Vatican to move the congress date from the original schedule of May 23 to 9, 2016 to January 25 to 31, 2016.

The change in schedule is in response to a letter that the CBCP received two weeks ago from Archbishop Piero Marini, the president of the Pontifical Committee on the International Eucharistic Congress.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the CBCP, agreed to move the schedule of the congress, held every four years, so that the papal visit to the Philippines would be a Vatican priority. The last congress was hosted by Dublin, Ireland.

The congress would be the 51st gathering with the theme Christ in You: Our Hope of Glory. Thousands of foreign and local participants are expected to attend the event, particularly if Pope Francis, who appears to be following the footsteps of Pope John Paul II in terms of being close to ordinary Catholics and in living a simple lifestyle.

Vice President Jejomar Binay invited Pope Francis to visit the Philippines when he represented the country in the pontiff's inaugural mass in March at Vatican.

If the pope, who was known as Buenos Aires Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio before his election in March, would push through with the planned visit, he would be the third pope to visit the country, the only predominantly Roman Catholic nation in Asia.

Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II had previously made papal visits to the Philippines, but Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI did not have the opportunity in his eight-year reign. The last visit of Pope John Paul II was in 1995 to attend the World Youth Day hosted by Manila.

Pope Francis is continuing the World Youth Day celebrations spearheaded by Pope John Paul II by attending the WYD this year hosted by Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

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