George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
"He Represents Values That Are Important for the Health of the Country"
WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 14, 2008 (Zenit) - Here is a transcription of the interview held by EWTN anchor Raymond Arroyo with U.S. President George Bush on Friday. Arroyo spoke with the president leading up to Benedict XVI's April 15-20 visit to the United States.
Q Mr. President, this is the first head of state, Pope Benedict the XVI, you will ever greet on a tarmac. I was stunned to learn this. Why are you going and greeting him at an airstrip? Usually the heads of states come here.
THE PRESIDENT: Because he is a really important figure in a lot of ways. One, he speaks for millions. Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith. And, three, that I so subscribe to his notion that there are -- there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies, that I want to honor his convictions, as well.
Q You read his book on Europe, I'm told.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I read parts of it, yes.
Q What do you take generally from his appraisal of Europe and the world? And why is this relationship between the United States and the Holy See so important to you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, it's important to me because the Holy Father represents and stands for some values that I think are important for the health of the country, and when he comes to America, millions of my fellow citizens will be hanging on his every word. And that's why it's important.
I really don't want to get into -- spend time being critical of Europe. My main objective is to make sure our country is strong and solid and remains in the lead. One of the tenets of my foreign policy is that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom. And, you know, His Holiness speaks with that kind of clarity.
I'm also, as you know, a believer in the value of human life for the -- whether it's -- you know, the most vulnerable amongst us. And he speaks clearly to that, as well.
Q Yes, I want to talk about that a little bit later, because you -- you know, he has commended, and no doubt will again, for your bold stance on pro-life issues. I want to touch on some of the points he will no doubt raise.
One of them is Africa. I watched with great interest your visit to Africa. You looked like the Pope of Tanzania when you arrived. (Laughter.) I mean, the whole town erupted. People I don't think have given you just desserts or credit for what you've done there. You've quadrupled aid to Africa. Your President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is now treating 1.4 million people. The malaria treatment is unbelievable -- something like 50 million people now being helped. When you look at that -- I was told by a group of people who came here to meet you at the White House, you said, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Is there a compulsion of faith here, personally --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely.
Q -- with this aid?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a combination of faith and practicality. From the practical perspective, hopelessness is the only way for ideologues who murder the innocent to be able to recruit their followers. No one who's got a vision as dark and dim as al Qaeda can possibly say to somebody, follow me, my vision is hopeful or positive. Its like, you're so hopeless, this is your only out. And therefore, dealing with disease and hunger and despair helps defeat this -- these bunch of ideologues.
And then, secondly, I believe it's in our individual and collective interests to use our great blessings to help others, whether it be at home or abroad. And so, "to whom much is given, much is required" is a part of my belief. And I say to people all the time that it's in our national -- it's in our moral interests. It invigorates our soul to know that we have saved a baby that could be dying of a mosquito bite.
And I'm looking forward to talking to His Holy Father, and I will remind ...
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