Pope meets Philippine prez

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul appeared alert and relatively strong yesterday at a meeting with the president of the Philippines, days after illness caused the pontiff to skip his weekly general audience.

John Paul, who was attending a memorial Mass later in the day for two Popes, met for 20 minutes with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her entourage. Vatican officials helped John Paul to his feet; he shook the president's hand and returned to his seat for the rest of the meeting.

The 83-year-old pontiff's rare absence at Wednesday's general audience due to a mild intestinal problem raised fresh concerns about his health just weeks before he presides at ceremonies marking his 25th anniversary as Pope.

Nonetheless, since that missed audience John Paul has returned to his regular schedule and has held several meetings with church officials and others.

The Vatican said yesterday that the Pope had approved the election of a new Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraq.

Archbishop Louis Sako, 55, was selected by a Chaldean synod in Baghdad last year. Chaldean Catholics are the largest Christian community in Iraq, but its numbers have been steadily shrinking, mainly because of economic hardships.

The Associated Press


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