Cardinal Assures Mexico that Pope's Absence is Not Snub

MEXICO CITY (AP) - The Vatican is trying to reassure disillusioned Mexicans that Pope Benedict's decision not to attend an event there next year is not a snub of the deeply Catholic nation.

The Vatican says the 81-year-old pope declined an invitation to attend World Family Day in January because Mexico City is 7,300 feet above sea level. A spokesman says the people around him who worry about his health consider that too high an altitude for someone the pope's age.

Cardinal Ennio Antonelli says the pope is sending his top aide, instead, the Vatican's secretary of state, to show the importance he places on the event and his affection for Mexico.

Antonelli faced questions over the decision at a news conference

The explanation has left some Mexicans cold. They note that
Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul, was frail and 82 when he
last traveled to Mexico City in July 2002.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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