Swiss President's Faux Pas With the Pope

Forgets to Extend an Invitation

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2003 ( The Swiss president had such a stirring meeting with John Paul II that he forgot a major reason for his visit: to invite the Pope to his country next year.

President Pascal Couchepin admitted as much on Monday when he met with journalists, following his meeting with the Holy Father, the Swiss Catholic News agency APIC reported.

«Had I been able to, I would have stayed longer with him,» the Swiss leader said. He and the Pope focused on international issues in their meeting. Couchepin later continued the meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Couchepin and the Pope talked about the situation in the Middle East, the construction of the European Union (Switzerland is not a member), as well as the Vatican’s role in favor of international law, in particular, after the Iraq war.

«The purpose of our visit was to meet with the Pope and transmit Switzerland’s desire to participate in the Vatican’s action in favor of peace,» Couchepin said.

The importance of these topics, the president admitted, made him forget to invite the Pope to visit Switzerland next June 5-6 to attend a national meeting of Catholic youth.

The Swiss bishops have invited the Pope to take part in that meeting which would help prepare for World Youth Day 2005 in Germany. The visit requires an official invitation from the Swiss Federal Council.

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