I missed these comments from the president last week. They were made on the trip from Rome after John Paul's funeral:
President Bush said Friday that attending Pope John Paul II's emotional funeral strengthened his belief in Christianity, in a living God and in how religious faith is a lifelong journey, not a respite.
"I knew the ceremony today would be majestic, but I didn't realize how moved I would be by the service itself," said Bush, a Protestant who attends a Methodist church. "Today's ceremony, I bet you, for millions of people, was a reaffirmation . . . and a way to make sure doubts don't seep into your soul."
The president, discussing his faith in greater detail than usual, said: "There is no doubt in my mind there is a living God. And no doubt in my mind that Lord, Christ, was sent by the Almighty. No doubt in my mind about that."
In an interview with reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Texas from Rome, an unusually introspective Bush called the funeral ceremony one of the "highlights of my presidency." He differed sharply with former president Bill Clinton's view that John Paul left behind a "mixed legacy."
"I think John Paul II will have a clear legacy of peace, compassion and a strong legacy of setting a clear moral tone," Bush said, later asking reporters to amend his remarks to insert "excellent" to describe the legacy.
The president and John Paul met three times, and Bush has told aides he deeply admired the pontiff's unshakable faith and beliefs, even when their views collided. The pope was an unwavering critic of Bush's support for the death penalty and of the invasion of Iraq, but they shared a passion for promoting religious freedom, liberty and what both called a "culture of life."
"My relationship with John Paul II was a very good relationship," Bush said, noting how in their final meeting, on June 4, 2004, the pontiff "made his points to me with his eyes." In that meeting, Bush said the pope spoke mainly through written communications.
The president, like the pope, has been criticized by some for stubbornly clinging to conservative or traditional values, and he made clear he admired John Paul for his unbreakable stands on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion. "Tides of moral relativism kind of washed around him, but he stood strong as a rock," Bush said.
The pope's dedication to the church and mankind until his dying days was an "example of Christ's influence in a person's life" and was inspirational. "A lot of Christians gain great strength and confidence from seeing His Holiness in the last stages of life," Bush said.
At times using language familiar to Evangelicals, including talking in some detail about faith as a spiritual "walk" with Christ, the president said viewing the pope's body made him feel "much more in touch with the spirit."
"I think a walk in faith constantly confronts doubt, as faith becomes more mature," he said. "And you constantly confront, you know, questions. My faith is strong. The Bible talks about, you've got to constantly stay in touch with the word of God in order to help you on the walk.
"But the Lord works in mysterious ways," he added, "and during all our life's journeys we're enabled to see the Lord at work if our eyes are open and our hearts are open."