Pope Benedict XVI turns down invitation to visit Philippines

PhilippinesManila  - Pope Benedict XVI has turned down an invitation to visit the Philippines, Asia's largest Catholic country, this year due to a hectic schedule, a senior Church official said Friday.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said the Pope declined the invitation sent in July last year because his schedule was already packed.

"The reply was categorically no for the time being due to many schedules that have been filled up," he said in a statement posted on the CBCP website.

Lagdameo said there was no schedule yet on when Pope Benedict XVI could visit the Philippines, where more than 80 per cent of the 88.6 million population profess to the Catholic faith.

Pope Benedict XVI's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, visited the Philippines twice during his reign. (dpa)