Monday, June 11, 2007

Bush and Benedict: The Chat of the Pope and President

They are the two leaders of the free world, and while one is in charge of secular affairs and the other spiritual, there is plenty where their two worlds intersect. And while it is doubtful few details of their recent conversation will soon come to light, the light in Bush's eyes afterwards speaks volumes.

The Vatican was the second to last stop on "W's" world tour, and while there were bound to be some disagreements, the visit was described as "cordial." Although the president had audiences with John Paul previously, this was the first meeting between George Bush II and Benedict XVI, so he wasn't quite sure what to expect. Benedict, as his predecessor, did give Bush a hard time on the U.S. involvement in Iraq, commenting, "nothing good comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees." Benedict was particularly concerned for the Christians in this country, believing that " the society that is evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion," and wondered what the Americans were doing to ensure their safety. Still, now that the damage is done, Benedict (like John Paul) is not in favor of a unilateral withdrawal, at least until the Christian communities are safe—or evacuated.

We are also left to speculate on the specifics and depth of their chats on Israel and Palestine, Darfur and Lebanon. When Benedict inquired, "Your conversation with Putin went good?" within earshot of the photographers, Bush merely smiled and said, "I'll tell you in a minute," so even their no-doubt fascinating conversation on the provocative Russian president was left unheard. Bush also didn't delineate on their discussion on religious issues, but, in contrast to their debate on politics, you could tell by Bush's body language that the talk on "human rights, the defense and promotion of life, marriage and the family," went well.

So what, if anything, DID we glean from the brief meeting of the Pope and the President—besides the fact Benedict gave George a seventeenth century lithograph of St. Peters (and a gold Vatican medallion) and George gave Benedict a nifty hand-carved walking stick? Ultimately we learned not about Bush, the president, but Bush, the man. Asked his impression of the meeting, George said sincerely, "I was talking to a very smart, loving man ... after 6-1/2 years as president, I've been to some unusual places ... but today I was in awe." Already religious, and somewhat humbled by the failure of his Imperialistic policy in Iraq, we have to give the president credit that he not only realized he was in the presence of holiness—but that he was touched by it. I don't know if he will wear the medallion in the last year and a half of his presidency, or if peering at the painting will inspire George to follow Benedict's advice. But if the rumor is true that Tony Blair is becoming a Catholic (and a Deacon!) when he leaves the office of prime minister, perhaps this papal meeting, along with a push from his old friend Tony (not to mention Bush's Catholic brother Jeb) will be enough to cause him to convert. Many of Bush's critics claim George is dumb, but unlike some close-minded Catholic senators, he still has retained the capacity to learn. And, after meeting with Benedict, we shall now see how much.


Anonymous said...

One would think christians are far safer now than under Saddam's reign of terror and torture.

No More Cinops said...

I enjoyed your article. Thanks for the little bits of info like about Blair. Bush was able to work very well with Democrats when he was governor of Texas. In Washington, the Demos deliberately did not want to give him credit for anything. What kind of opposition party is this? A Lot of the hate Bush talk is because he is a Christian. As president he has been wonderful for the pro-life,marriage, and family movement.

Tom O'Toole said...

Anonymous-I only wish that were true; but the Christians now are being targeted by the terrorists. A group of religious stationed there recently wrote me to take their story off of my blog because they were afraid of retaliation. Let's just say Benedict's Middle East intelligence is better than Bush's. -Tom

Tom O'Toole said...

no more cinops - I agree. Iraq was W's only mistake (JPII pleaded with him not to go there) and while it was a big one, Clinton's were bigger. -Tom

Anonymous said...

"A Lot of the hate Bush talk is because he is a Christian. As president he has been wonderful for the pro-life,marriage, and family movement."

President Bush is pro-death penalty, pro-war, and he is pro-torture (see Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, School of the Americas)... how can these positions be considered "Christian"?