Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Today's Washington Post reports that President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will this afternoon greet Pope Benedict XVI, leader of the Roman Catholic Church, after the latter's plane lands at Andrews Airforce Base. This will be the first time in his seven years in office that the President will leave the White House to receive a visiting foreign dignitary. Tomorrow, President Bush will host Benedict for a private 45-minute meeting. The meeting will be preceded by an elaborate official arrival ceremony featuring soprano Kathleen Battle singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." About 9,000 invited guests are expected to attend this ceremony.
The President's warm welcome for the Pope results from his goal to build strong ties with Roman Catholics. According to the Washington Post report, in an interview last week with the Eternal Word Television Network, a Catholic news outlet, President Bush opined that Pope Benedict is a significant religious and moral leader. "I [also] subscribe to his notion that . . . there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies," Bush said. "I want to honor his convictions."
The Washington Post article continues:
Building strong ties with Catholics in general -- and Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, in particular -- has been a major element of the president's agenda since the 2000 political campaign. Former aides say his "compassionate conservative" agenda and emphasis on a "culture of life" have been shaped by the teachings of the church, while his political advisers have seen an opportunity to wrest Catholic voters from the Democratic Party.