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Germany

Germany Relents in Church Fest Visa Row

Forty-three young Filipinos initially denied entry to the Roman Catholic World Youth Day event in Germany have since been granted visas, leaving seven others still excluded, church leaders in the Philippines said Thursday. Controversy has surrounded preparations for next week's event in Cologne, where Pope Benedict XVI is to deliver a mass to young people, after the German government refused to issue visas to certain pilgrims from the Philippines, Cameroon and Togo. Fifty pilgrims from the Philippines, the world's third most populous Catholic nation, were among those barred from the event to be attended by some 400,000 young people from 193 countries. But the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the German mission here subsequently reconsidered and granted visas to 43 of them. "We are happy about the small percentage of denied visas. It establishes or confirms the legitimacy of the group, the ECY Philippines," a senior official of the CBCP commission told reporters. The remaining seven delegates were found to be "belonging to the young professional category and no longer falling under the youth class," said the official, who asked not to be named. The official said the visa issue is "not new" because out of the Filipino delegates to such Catholic youth festivals, a certain proportion are always denied visas. The Philippines sent a 322-member delegation to Cologne on Wednesday.

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