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US First Lady meets with Pope


Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hopes that the US first lady's trip to the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, would be peaceful and spoke of his concern about violent protests taking place in many Islamic countries.

First lady Laura Bush and one of her 24-year-old twin daughters, Barbara Bush, met the pope at the Vatican yesterday during a brief stop in Rome on the way to the Olympics.

Catholic News Service reports that after the meeting, she told reporters travelling with her that peace, terrorism and violence were among the topics the pope raised.

"He talked to me about the worries of terrorism, worries right now about violence in Beirut, Damascus and other cities" in the Middle East as protests continued over cartoons published in Europe that many Muslims found offensive.

"His hope and certainly our hope (is) for peace and tolerance" and for everyone to treat others with respect, she said.

Bush said she understood that Muslims could be offended by the cartoons and their caricatures of Mohammed, but "I do not think violence is the answer."

As Bush entered the papal library, Pope Benedict extended both hands in greeting and welcomed her.

Bush told the pope it was "so wonderful" to be able to meet him, then she introduced her daughter and Francis Rooney, US ambassador to the Vatican.

After a lunch with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush was scheduled to visit the Italian headquarters of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation at Rome's Gemelli hospital, which is part of Sacred Heart University.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the first lady said, "The United States finds it repugnant to find that people would depict Mohammed in a disrespectful and ugly way."

While free speech is an important value, she told the radio, "many times free speech is offensive."

Calling for more dialogue among nations and religions, she said, "We expect people would give respect to the deeply held religious views of people around the world."

SOURCE
First lady meets with pope, discusses violence sparked by cartoons (Catholic News Service 9/2/06)

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10 Feb 2006