VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- U.S. President George Bush thanked John Paul II for being a “strong symbol of freedom” able to “change societies and … the world.”
The American chief executive addressed these words to the Pope when awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, at the conclusion of Bush’s visit to the Vatican today.
“I bring greetings from our country where you are respected, admired and greatly loved,” Bush said.
“I also bring a message from my government that says to you, Sir, that 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,” he added.
Bush wished to read personally the citation that went along with the Medal of Freedom.
“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,” the president read from the text.
“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,” Bush added.
“His principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny,” he continued.
“The United States honors this son of Poland who became the Bishop of Rome, and a hero of our time,” the President concluded.
Receiving the honor, the Pope thanked Bush “for this thoughtful gesture.”
“May the desire for freedom, peace and a more humane world symbolized by this medal inspire men and women of good will in every time and place,” the Holy Father added. “God bless America!”
Last November, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan resolution encouraging Bush to award the honor to the Pope.