|USA||BUSH 'REGRETS' ALIENATING CATHOLICS|
In a letter to the leader of New York's Catholics, Gov. George W. Bush said he "deeply" regretted "causing needless offense" by making a campaign appearance at a South Carolina school with anti-Catholic views.
Bush has come under steady criticism for his 2 February visit to Bob Jones University, a Christian school whose leaders have criticised the Pope and labeled the Catholic church a 'Satanic cult'.
Opponents, including John McCain, his rival for the GOP presidential nomination, have assailed Bush for not denouncing the school's views and its ban on interracial dating and instead using his appearance to speak about his conservatism.
In a letter sent on Friday to Cardinal John O'Connor, Bush stated his "profound respect" for the Catholic Church and said the criticism of him is unfair and unfounded.
"On reflection, I should have been more clear in disassociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice," Bush said in the letter, which his campaign released Sunday. "It was a missed opportunity causing needless offense, which I deeply regret."
The letter marked an abrupt reversal for Bush, who only last week said: "I don't make any apologies for what I do in the campaign."
The text of the letter is available