This morning at the Vatican, U.S. President, George W. Bush met with the Holy Father in the Tower of St. John, located in the Vatican Gardens. The tower, which is not typically where the Pontiff receives heads of state, was restored by Pope John XXIII as a place he could work in peace, and is sometimes used as a residence for important guests.
President Bush, his wife, Laura, and the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon met the Pontiff at the entrance to the Tower of St. John, before the President and Pope held their discussions. The Vatican reports that the Pope wanted to meet President Bush at the unique venue to express gratitude for the warm reception at the White House the Pontiff received when he visited the United States last April.
As the two heads of state ascended the stairs of the tower, it was reported by the UK Telegraph that President Bush whispered, “what an honor, what an honor!” Laura Bush and the ambassador remained with the prefect of the Pontifical Household, Michael Harvey.
During their discussions, Pope Benedict again thanked the president for the welcome he received during his April visit to the United States and also expressed gratitude for his commitment to the defense of moral values.
The two went on to discuss international politics: relations in between the U.S. and Europe, issues in the Middle East, peace in the Holy Land, globalization, the food crisis and international trade, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Benedict XVI and President Bush ended their meeting by taking a brief stroll in the Vatican Gardens to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was there where they were joined by Mrs. Bush and were treated to two hymns sung by the Choir of the Sistine Chapel.
The President will depart from Rome today and will continue his tour of Europe.