In a second historic visit by a Pope to the White House, Pope Benedict proclaims "Christ our Hope" to the United States.
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush flank Pope Benedict XVI as he waves to the crowd from the balcony of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 16, 2008, during an arrival ceremony.
WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – Pope Benedict visited the White House today, welcomed by the President and Mrs. Bush, distinguished members of U.S. Government, his bishops, and thousands of cheering voices.
This is the first visit of His Holiness to the United States since he became Pope. Pope Benedict XVI is only the second Pontiff to visit The White House. His Holiness Pope John Paul II was welcomed to The White House by President Jimmy Carter on October 6, 1979.
Upon his arrival, the Pontiff was treated to a host of special performances, which begun a presentation by the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps.
Just as soprano Kathleen Battle walked forward to sing “The Lord’s Prayer,” the crowd burst into a spontaneous rendition of “Happy Birthday,” celebrating the pontiff’s 81st birthday today.
The festivities on the South Lawn of the White House also included the Marine Band performing the National Anthem of the Holy See. Then, the playing of the National Anthem of the United States of America followed a simultaneous 21-gun salute.
In his welcoming remarks, President Bush said, "Here in America, you'll find a nation that welcomes the role of religion in the public square.”
Bush was interrupted by applause as he said, "In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred and that each of us is willed."
"In a world where some evoke the name of God to justify acts of terror and murder and hate, we need your message that God is love. And embracing this love is the surest way to save man from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism," he said.
The Holy Father set the context for his message of hope and his U.S. visit early in his remarks. "I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society."
He also affirmed America’s historic quest for values-based government. “America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.”
The pope also encouraged continuing diplomatic efforts in America’s role as a world leader. “I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress.”
After President Bush and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI addressed the crowd, the U.S. Army Chorus performed “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Before entering the White House for private talks, the Holy Father was treated to a full-scale version of “Happy Birthday” by the Marine Band, Army Chorus, Kathleen Battle and the gathering on the South Lawn.
Below are the remarks of the the Holy Father at the event.
Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of the United States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit this great country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life of the Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the elevation of the country’s first Diocese – Baltimore – to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville.
Yet I am happy to be here as a guest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America’s Catholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to the life of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence will be a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, and strengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly to the life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.
From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation’s founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the “self-evident truth” that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God.
The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement. In our time too, particularly in ...
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