So it was left to the usual suspects to try to put pressure on Bush. Many expected Pope John Paul II to rattle the US president during his audience at the Vatican, following previous statements by the pontiff criticizing the war in Iraq. Roman Catholic voters could be important for Bush in the forthcoming presidential elections. As a bloc, they made up about a quarter of the electorate that split evenly between Bush and Democrat Al Gore in 2000.
The Pope told Bush of his concern about the 'grave unrest' in the Middle East. He called for the 'speedy return of Iraq's sovereignty' and endorsed the plans to actively involve the United Nations. None of this contradicted Bush's campaign in Iraq and the meeting was 'cordial' according to a Vatican statement.
'Such high expectations, and then such leniency. John Paul II did not give Bush a piece of his mind at the audience in Rome,' reported Germany's Der Tagesspiegel, with a barely hidden tone of disappointment.
Ah, what a disappointment for them.