Chicago's Cardinal Laments Rome Protests That Precede Bush Visit

Americans Puzzled by Opposition, He Says

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ROME, JUNE 1, 2004 ( Though he believes U.S.-Italian relations «are excellent,» the archbishop of Chicago expressed regret over the demonstrations against George Bush being planned in Rome before the president’s visit this week.

The demonstrations reflect an attitude that puzzles Americans, said Cardinal Francis George in an interview with the Italian newspaper Avvenire. «We are unable to understand how others see us,» he said.

The cardinal, who has just been in Rome on his five-yearly visit to the Pope, was able to witness the planning of these protests, which he considers more in terms of Italian internal politics rather than U.S.-Italian relations. The latter, «from what I know, are excellent,» he said.

However, «when we discover that we are not liked in some part of the world, we are shocked without realizing before that we had done something disagreeable or annoyed others’ sensitivity,» the cardinal explained.

With their media focused on domestic news and a U.S.-centered political debate, American citizens have the «bad habit» of pursuing objectives, «including with the best of intentions, without being too concerned about the consequences,» the Chicago archbishop said.

In this regard, and in keeping with its mission, the universal Church can put people «in communion among themselves overcoming geographical, social and cultural limitations,» an endeavor in which «we can and must do more, given that were are too absorbed in local problems,» Cardinal George added.

Bush’s visit to Rome will take place in the context of the 60th anniversary of its liberation by the Allies during World War II.

The U.S. president, a Methodist, requested an audience with John Paul II before the latter travels to Switzerland this weekend. High on the agenda of the papal audience, scheduled for Friday, is the pacification of Iraq.

«I am convinced that the Pope now desires that the campaign in Iraq end successfully, for the good of all those involved,» Cardinal George said. «But I also think he is perplexed by the way Americans are pursuing their mission in that country.»

«The abuses against Iraqi prisoners are a source of shame for all Americans, whether or not believers,» the cardinal said.

However, «those actions are certainly not representative of our behavior or of the values that are our foundation as a nation,» he added. «Therefore, it is important that they be brought into the light and justly punished.»

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