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Sports

Manny invited by US Congress

Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sarangani Rep./WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao has received an official letter of invitation from Democrat Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania and Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi to attend the 63rd annual National Prayer Breakfast – a major event hosted by the US Congress – in Washington, D. C., on Feb. 3-6.

The Breakfast is a series of meetings organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a Christian group also known as “The Family.” It was initially called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast as the US President has traditionally been a speaker but in 1970, the event was renamed the National Prayer Breakfast with the Chief Executive still the key participant. Every US president since Dwight Eisenhower, who ruled from 1953 to 1961, has attended the Breakfast and this February, President Barack Obama is expected to grace the event as one of two keynote speakers.

If Pacquiao attends, it won’t be his first meeting with Obama. In February 2011, Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee paid a courtesy call on Obama at the White House. There was little time to discuss matters of diplomatic significance but Obama came across as a Pacquiao fan. They even posed for a photograph facing each other with their fists up. Pacquiao invited Obama to watch his fight against Sugar Shane Mosley in Las Vegas in May that year but the US President said because of his busy schedule, he would be able to catch it only on pay-per-view.

Next year’s Breakfast will be held at the Washington Hilton. The event is usually attended by 3,500 guests, including the US President, members of the US Congress, other government officials and leaders from the US, the diplomatic corps and selected individuals from more than 130 countries “to share in the spirit of friendship through prayer and thanksgiving.”

In their letter to Pacquiao, Sens. Casey and Wicker said, “this gathering is a time when we set aside our differences and seek to build personal relationships and deepen international ties through our spirituality, love of God and care for each other.” The Senators are the co-chairs of the Breakfast. They are joined in the hosting group by Senators Lamar Alexander, John Boozman, Christopher Coons, Michael Enzi, Heidi Heitkamp, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Tim Kaine, Angus King and Amy Klobuchar and Representatives Robert Aderholt, John Barrow, Emanuel Cleaver II, Jeff Duncan, Virginia Foxx, Louie Gohmert, Janice Hahn, Randy Hultgren, Jeff Miller, Terri Sewell and Juan Vargas.

The principal speaker of the coming Breakfast is still not known. Organizers usually keep it a surprise. In 1994, it was Mother Teresa. In 2006, it was Irish songwriter and humanitarian Bono. In 2009, it was former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. And last February, it was Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the US AID.

Sens. Casey and Wicker invited Pacquiao to attend the series of meetings during the four-day event, not only the social functions. Registration begins on Feb. 3 and the closing is on Feb. 6. “We would be honored if you would join us for the entire schedule,” said the Senators. “The special activities surrounding the National Prayer Breakfast are an integral part of the occasion.”

A copy of the invitation addressed to Pacquiao in his General Santos City home was forwarded by Wilfred Job, a United Methodist Church pastor and executive director of the International Disciples Foundation.

Job was present when Pacquiao preached the gospel to justices of the Court of Appeals at the Assembly Hall of the Ermita offices last week. Presiding Justice Andres Reyes welcomed Pacquiao who shared his insights on lessons from the Bible. If Pacquiao accepts the invitation to attend the Breakfast, he will be accompanied by pastor Peter Tanchi of Christ’s Commission Fellowship, Henry Sy, Jr., Dr. Hayden Kho and Ever Bilena chairman/Blackwater Elite team owner Dioceldo Sy.

There is talk of Pacquiao fighting Floyd Mayweather in a blockbuster bout to unify the world welterweight championship in May or June in Las Vegas. Pacquiao could take the opportunity to attend the Breakfast then kick off training for his next fight at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Freddie Roach has expressed a preference for Pacquiao to train in the US if his next fight will be in Las Vegas. It would be a fitting start of Pacquiao’s US mission to attend the Christian fellowship with Obama considering that Mayweather likes to portray himself as the master of vices. The much-anticipated fight will be a showdown between hero and villain.

 

ANGUS KING AND AMY KLOBUCHAR AND REPRESENTATIVES ROBERT ADERHOLT ASSEMBLY HALL OF THE ERMITA BREAKFAST CASEY AND WICKER FEB IF PACQUIAO LAS VEGAS NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST OBAMA PACQUIAO
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