"One of the blessings of being the President is I get to see firsthand how people are motivated by the fundamental truths articulated by the Holy Father."
One of the many fruits of the apostolic visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States has been the extraordinary way in which the American people have been open to and received his message. Notably, President George Bush has been deeply moved by that message and expressed that Friday at a Catholic Prayer breakfast.
WASHINGTON, DC (White House Press Office) - It's not every day you get to be the warm-up act to the Holy Father. (Laughter.) I'm honored to be here.
I do thank Austin for his leadership for the Catholic Prayer Breakfast. I thank the Board of Directors for having me. I thank Archbishop Gomez, tejano, for being here. And I want to thank Bishop Finn, members of the clergy. Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for being men of faith.
I'm proud to be here with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts. (Applause.) He's always looking for a free breakfast. (Laughter.)
Proud to be here with members of the United States Senate and Congress. Thank you all for being here. Solicitor General Paul Clement is with us today. (Applause.) Members of my administration, members of the Diplomatic Corps and distinguished guests.
This has been a joyous week. (Applause.) It's been a joyous time for Catholics -- and it wasn't such a bad week for Methodists, either. (Laughter.) The excitement was just palpable.
The streets were lined with people that were so thrilled that the Holy Father was here. And it was such a privilege to welcome this good man to the United States.
For those of you on the South Lawn -- who saw the South Lawn ceremony live, it was -- what an unbelievable -- it was just such a special moment. (Applause.) And it was a special moment to be able to visit with the Holy Father in the Oval Office.
He is a humble servant of God. He is a brilliant professor. He is a warm and generous soul.
He is courageous in the defense of fundamental truths. (Applause.) His Holiness believes that freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man, woman and child on Earth.
He understands that every person has value, or to use his words, "each of us is willed, each of us is loved, [and] each of us is necessary." (Applause.)
The Holy Father strongly believes that to whom much is given much is required -- and he is a messenger of God's call to love our neighbors as we'd like to be loved ourselves.
I've seen how American Catholics are guided by these truths. One of the blessings of being the President is I get to see firsthand how people are motivated by the fundamental truths articulated by the Holy Father.
I've watched you live out the Gospel through countless acts of compassion and courage. I've joined with you in striving to heed the Scriptures' noble calling: to see God's image in all mankind, and to uphold the dignity of each human being on Earth. (Applause.)
Together, over the nearly seven and a half years we've worked to uphold the dignity of human life.
Over the last -- over the last years, my administration has put a stop to U.S. tax dollars funding foreign groups that perform or promote abortions. (Applause.)
We've worked together to protect unborn victims of violence, and to end the barbaric practice of partial-birth abortion. (Applause.)
We have stood fast in our belief that promising medical advances can co-exist with ethical medical practices. (Applause.)
Last November, scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This is a significant breakthrough, because science -- scientists have found a path that can lead beyond the divisive debates of the past -- and extend the healing potential of medicine without destroying human life. (Applause.)
Together, we've worked to strengthen America's lifelines of learning -- including our nation's Catholic schools. The Catholic Church has a proud educational tradition dating back centuries, and one of the Holy Father's priorities has been maintaining this tradition in the United States.
Today, America's Catholic schools serve thousands of students -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- in some of our nation's poorest neighborhoods. They help minority students narrow the achievement gap.
They prepare children for lives of character and purpose and success. And yet these schools are closing at an alarming rate: nearly 1,200 Catholic schools have shut their doors since the year 2000.
In my State of the Union address this January, I proposed a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. And the reason I did so is because I want to help low-income children in underperforming public schools be able to attend a private or parochial school of their choice. (Applause.)
I am concerned about the loss of a major national asset, and that is the decline of Catholic schools, particularly in inner-city America. And to this end, next week we're having a White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools. (Applause.)
And the purpose of the summit is to highlight the lack of educational options facing low-income urban students. And we're going to bring ...
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