President Bush may follow in the footsteps of his brother Jeb and convert to Catholicism, several European papers are reporting.
In the wake of the president’s visit to see Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican, Italian newspapers, citing Vatican sources, said Bush was open to the idea of converting to Catholicism.
The Italian newspaper Il Foglio referred to such talk about Bush’s possible conversion and stated that “anything is possible, especially for someone reborn like Bush.”
Noting that Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving office as Britain’s prime minister last year, the paper also stated that “if anything happens, it will happen after he finishes his period as president, not before. It is similar to Blair’s case, but with different circumstances.”
President Bush welcomed Pope Benedict XVI warmly when he visited the U.S. in April. And Vatican watchers noted that Bush met privately with the pontiff in the private gardens of the Vatican last Friday — an unprecedented place for the Pope to meet a head of state. Typically, the Vatican gardens are used by the Pope for private reflection.
A Vatican spokesman said the Pope used the unusual locale to reciprocate for the “warmth” Bush showed when the two met in Washington.
Though the Catholic Church has criticized the U.S. war in Iraq, Bush has been an ardent supporter of pro-life issues; he has staunchly opposed stem-cell research; and he opposes gay marriage — all issues important for Rome.
Currently Bush belongs to a Methodist church in Texas and attends an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C.
A friend of Bush, Father George William Rutler — who converted to Catholicism in 1979 — told the Catholic News Agency that Bush “is not unaware of how evangelicalism, by comparison with Catholicism, may seem more limited both theologically and historically.”
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