Vice President Jejomar C. Binay will fly to Rome to meet with Pope Benedict XVI after he conveys the country’s condolences to King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud on the passing of Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Prior to the death of the Crown Prince, I was originally scheduled to leave for Italy a few days from today, to meet with our OFWs there. Because of this change in timetable, I will now be proceeding to Rome from Saudi Arabia after a short stop in Dubai,” the Vice President said in a statement before his departure.

Binay said he considers the private audience with the Pope “a great privilege” knowing how busy the Pontiff is.

“I look forward to it with great joy and expectation, coming as it does on a date so close to the scheduled canonization of a new Filipino saint, Pedro Calungsod, in October, and my own 40thwedding anniversary on July 4,” he said.

“I hope to convey to the Holy Father all the good wishes of our people, most of whom are members of the Church, and for whom he has shown so much love and affection,” he added.

The Vice President further said that the Pope also had just announced that the next Eucharistic Congress, one of the biggest events of the Catholic Church every three years, would be held in Cebu in 2015.

Binay flew to Saudi as President Benigno Aquino’s representative.

The Crown Prince died of an unspecified lingering illness on June 16 at a hospital in Switzerland. He was 78 years old.

Binay said the Crown Prince was “a good friend of the Philippines and the Filipino people” who helped keep the people of Saudi Arabia, including the one million or so Overseas Filipino Workers, out of harm’s way through his anti-terrorism campaigns.

“For this alone, the Prince deserves the gratitude and prayers of our people,” he said.

While in Jeddah, the Vice President will also meet with the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia. He did the same during his last visit to the Arab state.

“Last year, I had a most memorable and productive meeting with thousands of Filipino workers who were stranded and awaiting repatriation at the Hajj Terminal. Through the help of His Majesty, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, we were able to facilitate their return to the Philippines shortly after my visit,” he said.

Binay is the Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) concerns.