Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq -- Between Pope and President

Bush meets Benedict 2007
For Pope and president, a chasm over Iraq, by Tom Feeney. New Jersey Star-Ledger March 18, 2008:
On social issues like abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research, the conservative Pope Benedict XVI and the conservative President Bush find much common ground.

But a month from now, when Benedict makes his first visit to the U.S., his meeting with Bush is likely to underscore an issue where there remains a deep divide between the Vatican and the White House -- the war in Iraq.

The war began five years ago tomorrow, and from the start, the pontiff and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have spoken out against it. "Nothing positive comes from Iraq," Benedict said during his Easter message last year.

Benedict will be greeted by Bush when his plane lands April 15, the Vatican announced yesterday. The pair will meet the next day to kick off the Pope's six-day U.S. visit that includes a Mass at Yankee Stadium and a speech at the United Nations. Observers expect the Iraq war will come up during the White House visit.

"If it doesn't, I'd be disappointed in the pope," said the Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. "If it does, however, I would expect Benedict XVI to be a bit softer in his approach than John Paul II. But the effect will be the same, namely, the war will continue through the remainder of the president's second term."

President Bush and Pope Benedict last met each other in June of 2007, when the President visited the Vatican for the first time.