Extraordinary Protocal for Final Bush Visit to Vatican


(13 June 08 - RV) The farewell visit between outgoing US president George W Bush and Pope Benedict XVI was a marked change from the first formal encounter between the two men in 2007.

Then Pope Benedict received the Head of State in his private study in the Apostolic Palace, where all official guests to the Vatican are welcomed.

Friday however, the heavily guarded presidential cavalcade swept past the St Damaso courtyard through the Vatican Gardens to the hill top of the tiny city state where Pope Benedict XVI awaited President Bush, flanked by his Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone.

The Holy Father greeted the US president and escorted him to St John's Tower, where in a study on the upper floor they held private discussions. A note issued Friday described the talks as "cordial", stating that the Pope "reiterated his gratitude for the warm and exceptional welcome he had received in the United States of America and at the White House during his visit there in April, and for the president's commitment in defence of fundamental moral values. The discussions then turned to the main themes of international politics: relations between the United States of America and Europe, the Middle East and efforts for peace in the Holy Land, globalisation, the food crisis and international trade, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

From the Tower the Pope drew President's attention to the commanding view of the tiny city State and St Peter's basilica, before the two posed for photographs and exchanged gifts. The president gifted Pope Benedict a photograph of the two walking along the White House colonnade on their way to the Oval Office in April. The picture was presented in a sterling silver frame with an engraved presidential seal.
For his part Pope Benedict gave Bush a framed photograph and four volumes on St. Peter's Basilica, before inviting the President to take a stroll with him through the world famous gardens, coming to rest before the replica of the grotto of our Lady of Lourdes.
There the two were joined by their delegations for a brief recital by the Sistine Chapel Choir.
President Bush was accompanied on his Vatican visit by his wife Laura Bush and US ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon.
The extraordinary protocol of Friday's visit was, noted the Vatican, in order to respond to the cordiality of the welcome received by the Pope during his recent visit to the United States. Indeed the President spent over an hour in the Popes company, before taking his leave at midday.

President Bush's meeting with Pope Benedict concludes the Italian leg of his European tour. He leaves Rome Friday, before travelling on to France.