This morning Pope Benedict was officially welcomed to the United States by President Bush and 12,000 other guests at the White House. During the reception, the Pontiff described the goal of his visit to bring hope to American Catholics and strengthen them to increasingly contribute to the life of the United States.
In his opening remarks, President Bush highlighted the religious roots of the United States and the values of defending life and religious freedom. He also told the Pope that the U.S. needs his message and encouragement in fostering these values.
The Holy Father responded by expressing his pleasure to be present in the United States as a guest and indicated his, “great respect for this pluralistic society.” Pope Benedict also stated his goal for the visit, “As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.”
In his remarks, the Holy Father also indicated his expectations of meeting with not only the American Catholic community, but with other Christian communities and representatives of the many religious traditions present in this country.
The Pope then continued to elaborate on the importance of freedom in the history of the United States. “Freedom is not only a gift, but a summons to personal responsibility.” He continued to illustrate the actions necessary to protect freedom and quoted from Spe Salvi, 24…” In a word, freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out for each generation and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good.”
Pope Benedict concluded his address with “as I begin my visit to the United States, I express once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in your midst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nation and its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God bless America!”
Following the address, Pope Benedict was treated to a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, after which he and President Bush met privately.
To view the full remarks of Pope Benedict click here.