Pope holds audience with Laura Bush

.- First Lady Laura Bush had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI this morning, during her stop in the Italian capital on her way to the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin tomorrow, reported ANSA.

Pope Benedict XVI met with     Laura Bush in his private library on Thursday and wished the first lady "a peaceful time" at the upcoming Olympics in Turin, where she is heading the U.S. delegation.

During the 20-minute meeting, Mrs. Bush gave Benedict a small silver bowl; the pope in turn gave the first lady and Barbara rosaries and Rooney a  Vatican medal.

On the eve of the visit, the first lady told Vatican Radio in an interview broadcast Thursday: "The American people are a religious people, of course all different religions. But we share a lot of the same values with the Catholic Church."

The First Lady is traveling with one of her twin daughters, Barbara, who spent a year at a private high school in Rome before her father was elected president. The First Lady is leading the American delegation to Friday's inauguration of Torino 2006, which includes several former Olympic champions and the U.S. ambassador to Italy, Ronald Spogli.

Before leaving Rome, Bush also met at Gemelli Hospital with members of the Italian branch of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The Dallas-based organization is the leading private institution active in the fight against breast cancer in the United States. She also attended a luncheon with Premier Silvio Berlusconi at his Rome residence.

The American delegation is expected to attend an event this evening in Turin with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The president will welcome dignitaries attending the inauguration at the former royal palace in Turin for a gala dinner. Prince Albert II of Monaco is expected to carry in the Olympic Flame.

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