Bush plan to make election-year visit to pope
Pope John Paul II will meet with US President George Bush early next month, with Iraq the main topic on the agenda for discussion.
US Ambassador to the Holy See Jim Nicholson told Catholic News Service that Bush altered his schedule in order to make sure he didn't miss the pope, who is scheduled to travel to Switzerland on 5 June.
Instead of arriving in Rome late on 4 June, the president will "fly all night" and arrive in the morning, Nicholson said. The president and his aides are expected in the Vatican in late morning, where they will also meet with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.
Informed sources in Rome said Iraq and the Middle East would be at the top of the discussion agenda. It will be the third meeting between the two leaders, and the first since the start of the Iraq war, which was strongly opposed by the pope and his aides.
Vatican officials have said for months it would be unusual for a pope to meet with a sitting president during a re-election campaign, because of the risk that it could be seen as partisan. But after careful consideration, the reasons for such a meeting prevailed over the Vatican's usual caution, a Vatican official said.
"The risks of political exploitation exist in any encounter like this. Obviously, an evaluation must be made, and in this case the pros outweighed the cons," the official said.
Bush to make election-year visit to pope in June; top issue is Iraq (Catholic News Service 9/5/04)
Pres. Bush to visit Pope in June (Catholic World News 10/5/04)
Mary as Mother Is Close to Us, Says John Paul II (Zenit 9/5/04)
Threats to Humanity's Progress Are Outlined (Zenit 9/5/04)
Pope Urges End to Abuse of Child Labor (Zenit 9/5/04)
MANKIND LIVES TRULY HUMAN LIFE BECAUSE OF CULTURE (Vatican Information Service 8/5/04)
Top Vatican official to visit London (Catholic World News 10/5/04)
11 May 2004