Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pope Benedict gives President Bush a warm reception at the Vatican

"Bush treated to warm greeting at Vatican" reports the Associated Press:
ROME (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI took President Bush on a rare stroll through the lush grounds of the Vatican Gardens on Friday, stopping at a grotto where the pontiff prays daily.

"Your eminence, you're looking good," Bush told the pope shortly after arriving at the Vatican, launching the leaders' third visit together.

Source: Reuters

Normally, VIPS are received in the pope's library in the Apostolic Palace. That's where Bush had his first meeting with Benedict in June 2007.

But in a gesture of appreciation for the hearty welcome Bush gave him in Washington in April, Benedict welcomed the president and first lady Laura Bush near St. John's Tower in the lush Vatican Gardens. ...

On a brief tour, Benedict and Bush peered out from a tower balcony, and the president seemed awed by what he saw. The pope pointed out St. Peter's dome as he showed Bush the view.

"This is fantastic up here," Bush said. "Thank you so much for showing me this."

White House press secretary Dana Perino said the two leaders have the kind of relationship that allows them to speak frankly. They discussed such issues as human rights, HIV and AIDS in Africa, and poverty around the world, she said.

Source: Reuters

After their private meeting ended, Bush and Benedict posed for official photographs and exchanged gifts.

The president gave the pontiff a photograph of the two walking along the White House colonnade on their way to the Oval Office in April. The picture was presented in a sterling silver frame with an engraved presidential seal.

Benedict gave Bush a framed photograph and four volumes on St. Peter's Basilica.

"Perhaps you'll have some time to read it," he told Bush, whose presidency ends in January.

Members of the presidential entourage received rosaries and medals of the pontificate.

Bush and the pope then strolled through the gardens to see the Lourdes Grotto, which was donated to Pope Leo XIII at the turn of the century by French Catholics. Bush and Benedict sat in wooden patio-style chairs admiring the grotto as Mrs. Bush rejoined them.

Source: Associated Press / Evan Vucci

A statement by the Vatican after Bush's visit said that the pope had "renewed his gratitude for the warm and special reception he received in the United States of America and at the White House in April, and for the commitment in defense of the fundamental moral values." The two leaders talked about relations between the U.S. and Europe, globalization, the world food crisis and international trade, among other topics, the Vatican said.