Monday, April 11, 2005

President Bush's Attendance at Funeral Indicates John Paul II's Impact

Culture & Cosmos
April 5, 2005 Volume 2, Number 35

President Bush's Attendance at Funeral Indicates John Paul II's Impact

As a testament to Pope John Paul II's wide-ranging influence,
President Bush will attend the Holy Father's funeral on Friday, the first
time in American history that a president has attended a papal funeral and
a symbol of the high esteem in which Bush holds the pontiff.

"Laura and I are looking forward to leading a delegation to honor the
Holy Father. . . . He's a courageous person; he's a moral person; he was a
Godly person," Bush said. "And so the world will miss him. And it is my
great honor, on behalf of our country, to express our gratitude to the
Almighty for such a man. And of course, we look forward to the majesty of
celebrating such a significant human life." The president is expected to
bring a five-person delegation to the funeral that will include former
Presidents Clinton and the elder Bush; Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice; and First Lady Laura Bush.

Pope John Paul II is the first pope to die since America gave
diplomatic recognition to the Vatican, a move that occurred under
President Ronal Reagan in 1983 and drew criticism at the time from both
secular and Protestant organizations. Robert Royal, President of the Faith
and Reason Institute and member of the Culture of Life Foundation Board of
Directors, said that Reagan recognized in Pope John Paul II an important
ally in the battle against the Soviet Union. "After meeting with the pope,
Reagan said he needed his own person at the Vatican because John Paul was
too important in fighting communism," Royal said. According to Royal, a
previous attempt to establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican had been
made by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s but was squashed by
public protest.

Bush has long expressed admiration for Pope John Paul II and his
attendance at the papal funeral is likely more than just a diplomatic
formality. Bush frequently employed the Holy Father's phrase, "the culture
of life" and described his three meetings with the pontiff as powerful
events. "I remember going to Castel Gandolfo - Laura and I were there, and
I can remember him taking us out on the balcony of this fabulous palace
overlooking a magnificent lake, and talking about his views of the world.
It was a moment I'll never forget during my presidency."

Royal says he believes that Bush's apparent affection for the pontiff
is more than just lip-service employed for political benefit. "I think
that both Bushes sincerely admired the man. Let's not forget that it was
while the first George Bush was in power that communism fell. I think the
Bush family was very close with this pope." Following the announcement of
Pope John Paul II's death on Saturday, the president attended a memorial
Mass at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington celebrated by Cardinal
Theodore McCarrick.

The fondness for the pope held by Bush, an Evangelical Protestant, is
emblematic of the way the Holy Father helped inspire a coalition between
Evangelicals and Catholics in this country in the culture war battles.
"The way this pope was able to draw in Evangelicals and Southern Baptists
was remarkable," Royal said. Many observers believe that a document like
"Evangelicals and Catholics Together," a joint statement initiated by
Father Richard John Neuhaus and prominent evangelical Charles Colson that
recognized areas of agreement between the two traditions, would have been
impossible without the powerful witness of John Paul II. Similarly the
pontiff was able to use the Vatican's diplomatic corps to build a
coalition of Muslim and Catholic countries to fight off the efforts of
radical feminists at the UN to create an international right to abortion
and declare the traditional family obsolete.

Copyright 2005---Culture of Life Foundation. Permission granted for
unlimited use. Credit required.

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