Tags: Bush | and | Pope | Discuss | Abuse | Scandal | Mideast

Bush and Pope Discuss Abuse Scandal, Mideast, Russia

Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM

The president raised the issue, which Vatican and administration sources had earlier said was not expected to be discussed, in his private audience with the pope on the last day of his European trip. Few details of the 20-minute one-on-one conversation were available.

A Vatican source said the pope replied to the president that he had faith American Catholics would weather the storm.

Last month, Pope John Paul II received American cardinals at their request to discuss the crisis that has shaken the church.

The Vatican regarded the problem as an internal church matter, and it was felt that the Bush administration would also see it as such. But the sources speculated Tuesday Bush had the important U.S. Catholic vote in mind when he decided to express his view of the scandals.

Tuesday morning Bush told reporters, "I will tell the pope I am concerned about the Catholic Church and its standing in the United States." He said the American Catholic Church was "an important part of our great country."

The Vatican has not reacted to Bush's comments. A Vatican spokesman said church officials were not surprised that Bush had decided to raise the controversial issue with the pope.

More predictably, the pope and Bush discussed the Middle East, the Catholic Church in Russia, and recent developments in U.S.-Russian relations. John Paul's desire to visit Russia has consistently been blocked by opposition from the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II.

This is Bush's second meeting with the pope but his first visit to the Vatican as president. Last year, the president met John Paul II at the papal summer palace in the Alban Hills town of Castel Gandolfo outside Rome to avoid anti-American demonstrations in the city.

This time, the president and his party – including Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card – were received with the full ceremony reserved for heads of state.

An honor guard of the pope's Swiss Guard, whose colorful uniforms have changed little since the 16th century, was drawn up in the courtyard of St. Damasus in the Vatican Palace when the presidential motorcade arrived.

Bush was greeted by Archbishop James Harvey, the head of the pope's household, and escorted up the grand staircase by eight officials until recently known as "gentlemen of the sword and cape." These days they wear white tie and tails.

Pope John Paul II was waiting in his study, where the private conversation took place. Then the pope and Bush moved into a throne room, where John Paul was presented to White House staff members.

A barrage of photographers was allowed in for a few minutes to take pictures. When the bulbs started to pop, John Paul II jokingly put his hands to his ears.

According to a report released by the White House, Bush told the pope, "They'll make you look good, your Holy Father." A Vatican source said that assuming the report is correct Bush had meant to address the pope as "Your Holiness" and ended up combining it with another form of papal address, which is Holy Father.

Eyewitnesses said the pope appeared better than he has in recent public appearances. He is suffering from what the Vatican refers to as "the symptoms of Parkinson's disease." In Sofia, Bulgaria, last week, his speaking was so slurred that his speeches had to be read out for him.

The Vatican spokesman said later that the pope's health was not discussed.

According to the White House report, he asked Bush if he consulted his father, former President George H.W. Bush. The president neatly sidestepped the question. "He's retired," he said. "I'm sure the secretary of state occasionally seeks his advice on issues."

As Bush took his leave Pope John Paul took his hand in both of his and said, "God bless America."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The president raised the issue, which Vatican and administration sources had earlier said was not expected to be discussed, in his private audience with the pope on the last day of his European trip. Few details of the 20-minute one-on-one conversation were available....
Bush,and,Pope,Discuss,Abuse,Scandal,,Mideast,,Russia
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2002-00-28
Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM
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