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Pope to bless Duterte: Aide

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MANILA: Pope Francis will bless the Philippines and its leader Rodrigo Duterte, an aide to the President said.

It is a gesture of goodwill towards a controversial figure known for his lurid lambasting of priests and bishops.

"When I had the opportunity of kissing the hand of the Pope, I said, 'Bless the Philippines, Your Holiness,' and his answer was, 'Yes, I will also bless your President," presidential adviser Jesus Dureza said in a video clip at St. Peter's Square, shown on television yesterday.

Mr Dureza was in Rome ahead of peace talks between the government and Philippine Maoist rebels.

He met Pope Francis at the Vatican and delivered a letter from Mr Duterte thanking him for his 2015 visit to the Philippines, which has Asia's biggest Catholic population. - REUTERS