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Pope Meets Laura Bush, Tells of Concern Over Violence

U.S. First Lady Arrives in Italy Ahead of Olympics

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2006 ( Benedict XVI received U.S. first lady Laura Bush and her daughter Barbara in private audience, and shared his concerns about the violence unleashed over press cartoons of Mohammed.

The wife of President George Bush arrived in Italy to head the official U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics, which opens Friday in Turin.

Following the audience, the U.S. first lady made brief statements to journalists on the meeting, in which she revealed that the Pope “talked to me about the worries of terrorism, the worries right now about the violence in Beirut, Damascus and other cities.”

Protests have erupted in several countries over the publication of cartoons that many Muslims consider blasphemous against the prophet Mohammed.

A teen-ager arrested in the murder last Sunday of an Italian priest in Turkey admitted that he acted in reaction to the cartoons, officials said.

Laura Bush and her daughter, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Francis Rooney, were received for 15 minutes in the Pope’s library. The Holy Father asked the first lady to express his best wishes to her husband.

“His hope and certainly our hope (is) for peace and tolerance for each of us, to treat everyone else with respect,” said Laura Bush.

“I know that Muslims are offended with these cartoons,” she added. “I understand this offense; on the other hand I don’t think violence is the answer. I think everyone around the world needs to speak out and say, ‘Let’s stop the violence.'”

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