Pope and Bush Discuss Global Food Crisis

Papal Protocol Mirrors Unprecedented Gesture in April

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The global food crisis and the defense of fundamental values were two of the themes discussed by Benedict XVI and U.S. President George Bush.

The president visited the Pope in the Vatican today as part of his tour of Europe. In response to the president’s unprecedented welcome of the Holy Father to the United States last April, today’s meeting included a “unique protocol,” according to a communiqué from the Vatican press office.

“To respond to the cordiality of the welcome offered the Pontiff during his recent visit to the United States of America, the audience was carried out according to a unique protocol,” it explained. “The Holy Father welcomed the president, accompanied by his wife, Laura, and the ambassador to the Holy See, Mary Ann Glendon, in the entrance of St. John’s Tower in the Vatican Gardens.”

The Pope usually receives visiting heads of state in the pontifical apartments.

After the welcome, the two leaders had a 30-minute private meeting in the upper level study of the tower.

“Such an honor, such an honor,” Bush said later, noting the unprecedented welcome.

The Vatican communiqué reported: “During the cordial dialogue, the Holy Father above all renewed to the president his gratitude for the warm and special welcome received in the United States and the White House during his visit last April, and for the commitment in defense of fundamental values.

“Then they spoke of principal topics of international politics: relations between the United States and Europe, the Middle East and the commitment for peace in the Holy Land, globalization, the food crisis and international commerce, and the application of the Millennium Development Goals.”

During the interchange of gifts, Bush offered the Pope a photograph signed by him and his wife, as well as a photo album of the Holy Father’s visit to the White House, which coincided with his 81st birthday.

Benedict XVI also presented Bush with an autographed photograph — of himself with the president and his wife during a prayer at the White House. He also gave him a four-volume set on the Basilica of St. Peter.

The Holy Father and Bush strolled about the Vatican Gardens after the meeting, until they reached the nearby grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. There the choir of the Sistine Chapel performed two motets for them.

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