United States President’s visit to the Vatican

Source: FSSPX News


On May 9, a communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See, published a few hours after the private audience granted by Benedict XVI to the American President, said that “the main topics of international politics were reviewed, and that they dwelt particularly on the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Lebanon, the worrying situation in Iraq and the critical living conditions of the Christian communities there. The Holy See, once again, hoped for a ‘regional’ and ‘negotiated’ solution to the conflicts and crises which trouble the area.” In the discussion, special attention was given to Africa and its development, with a reference to Darfur, and not forgetting an exchange of views on Latin America, added the communiqué.

Furthermore, “an examination of the current moral and religious issues, including those concerning human rights and religious liberty, the defense and promotion of life, marriage and the family, the education of the younger generation, and durable development” were referred to.

At the end of the private interview, Benedict XVI greeted the president’s wife, Laura Bush, as well as the members of George Bush’s retinue. This was followed by the traditional exchange of gifts. The pope gave the American president a 17th-century engraving representing St. Peter’s Basilica. “It is very nice, thank you!” said George Bush. Benedict XVI also gave him the medals of his pontificate. As for President Bush, he presented the pope with a white staff engraved with the Ten Commandments in various colors, the work of a homeless Texan craftsman. “Are these the Ten Commandments?” asked the pope. “Yes, Sir,” answered George Bush, who on several other occasions called the pope “Sir”, something which was much commented upon and criticized by the Italian press.

George Bush then went on to meet the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, as well as Bishop Dominic Mamberti, Secretary for the Relations with Foreign States. After his visit to the Vatican, he met the members of the Sant’Egidio Community at the US Embassy, and afterwards the head of the Italian government, Romano Prodi. – Sometimes called the “parallel diplomacy” of the Holy See, the Sant’Egidio Community, founded in Rome in 1968, by Andrea Riccardi, is also behind interreligious meetings “in the spirit of Assisi.”

During the press conference which followed his visit with the head of the Italian government, George Bush stressed that the pope had expressed “his deep concern for the Christians in Iraq.” “I assured him that we were working hard to get the people to respect the Iraqi Constitution”, said the American president. He added that the issues of assistance to Africa and the fight against AIDS were tackled. George Bush also admitted having been “impressed” and moved by his meeting with Benedict XVI.

In an interview granted on June 10 to the Italian daily Il Messaggero, Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, declared: “President Bush is in favor of the defense of life in general, and this aspect represents an objective point of convergence.” Asked about the possibility of Benedict XVI and President Bush having spoken about Cuba, the Jesuit answered that he had “the impression they had not discussed it.” “When we mentioned Latin America in the final communiqué, we were referring particularly to the problems with Mexican immigration and the relationship between Mexico and the United States,” he specified.