Last November, the U.S. House of Representatives by voice vote approved a bipartisan resolution encouraging President Bush to award the government’s highest civilian honor to the Pope.
In 1963, President John Kennedy authorized the practice of awarding Presidential Medals of Freedom to persons “for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to an executive order.
About 400 such medals have been awarded. Pope John XXIII was among the first 31 honorees. President Lyndon Johnson presented the award posthumously in December 1963.
In 2000, the U.S. Congress awarded its Gold Medal to John Paul II.