Tags: Bush | Meet | Pope | Amid | Protests | Rome

Bush to Meet Pope Amid Protests in Rome

Friday, 08 June 2007 12:00 AM

ROME -- U.S. President George W. Bush meets Pope Benedict for the first time on Saturday for discussions expected to centre on their differences on Iraq and their common stand against abortion.

But Bush's meeting with the Pope may be overshadowed by the large protests expected during his one-day visit to Rome, which has set off a political row over whether the government has properly prepared security measures.

The 80-year-old Benedict and Bush are expected to speak privately for about 30 minutes in the pontiff's private study in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

The Pope and Bush see eye-to-eye on ethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia but are divided over the war in Iraq, which Benedict's predecessor, John Paul, tried hard to avert.

"The United States is a great country and the president has particularly distinguished himself for several positive initiatives in favor of the defence of life from conception," Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, told an Italian newspaper earlier this month.

But he cited Iraq as among the "problems that remain" and suggested the Pope and Bush will also discuss the plight of the minority Christian population there.

Bush told an Italian newspaper on June 1 that his intention was "mainly to listen" to the Pope. Bush also said he would be eager to discuss changes in China and the future of post-Castro Cuba if the Pope wanted.

As Bush meets the Pope in the relative quiet of the Vatican, tens of thousands of protestors will be taking to the streets in another area of Rome to protest against his visit and particularly his policy in Iraq.

VIOLENCE WARNING

The U.S. embassy advised American citizens to avoid the protests, warning "violence may erupt."

A big anti-Bush march is planned to wind through the city for several kilometers (miles) between two large squares. Police said they feared the demonstrations may turn violent.

Many supporters of Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left government, which includes communists, oppose the war in Iraq and some of his coalition parliamentarians may join the rallies.

The centre-right opposition led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has criticized Prodi's leftist allies for preparing what they say is a lukewarm welcome for Bush at best.

Posters reading "No Bush, No War," have been plastered in many parts of the city and rainbow-colored peace flags were hung in several neighborhoods.

In a move that highlighted fears of possibly violent demonstrations Bush will skip a visit in the central Trastevere neighborhood where he was to have met leaders of the Sant'Egidio Roman Catholic community.

Trastevere is one of Rome's oldest quarters, made up of narrow, cobbled alleys difficult for a presidential motorcade to negotiate.

The group, which has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize because of its work in Africa, will instead meet Bush at the U.S. embassy.

The cancellation of the Trastevere visit quickly became a political issue, with the centre right accusing the government of not being able to guarantee adequate security for an ally.

"This is shameful," said Berlusconi, who made Italy a staunch U.S. ally during his time in power. He will meet Bush at the U.S. ambassador's residence on Saturday evening.

Sant'Egidio works with the needy in Italy and Africa, where it has many AIDS programs. It brokered an end to Mozambique's civil war in 1992 and has 50,000 members in 70 countries.

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ROME -- U.S. President George W. Bush meets Pope Benedict for the first time on Saturday for discussions expected to centre on their differences on Iraq and their common stand against abortion. But Bush's meeting with the Pope may be overshadowed by the large protests...
Bush,Meet,Pope,Amid,Protests,Rome
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2007-00-08
Friday, 08 June 2007 12:00 AM
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