President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II during their meeting at the Vatican today.
In his remarks, Bush said he was bringing "greetings from our country, where you are respected, admired and greatly loved."
"I also bring a message from my government that says to you, sir, we will work for human liberty and human dignity, in order to spread peace and compassion; that we appreciate the strong symbol of freedom that you have stood for, and we recognize the power of freedom to change societies and to change the world," said the president.
"Perhaps the best way I can express my country's gratitude to you, and our respect to you”–President Bush continued- “is to present to you the Medal of Freedom from America."
The president also read the citation attached to the Medal, which says: "A devoted servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has championed the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has defended the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life. Through his faith and moral conviction, he has given courage to others to be not afraid in overcoming injustice and oppression. His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny. The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome and a hero of our time."
Pope John Paul responded by saying: "I am very grateful, Mr. President, for this thoughtful gesture. May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place. God bless America."