- The Bush administration is organizing a "unique'' Rose Garden ceremony as it finalizes plans for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI next week, reports Mark Silva of the Baltimore Sun:
"There is great excitement throughout the staff regardless of one’s religious affiliation,” says White House Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin. “This is a very special day.”
Hagin, together with Anita Bride, the first lady's chief of staff, held a roundtable discussion with members of faith-based media to give an inside look at the White House preparations. “As a Catholic,'' McBride said, "this is an enormous honor for me and a privilege to work on some small aspect of this visit.''
The staff has prepared a ceremony that reflects the usual details reserved for heads of state, together with “very appropriate and warm additions.” McBride notes that nearly 10,000 people will attend the ceremony surrounding the pope's arrival on the South Lawn on Wednesday.
A number of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts will be present during the ceremony, along with members of Catholic Charities and community volunteers. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps will don their Revolutionary regalia for a presentation during the ceremony and will honor the Holy Father with the 21 gun salute, a typical gesture for a visiting head of state.
- The Rhode Island Catholic reports that President and Mrs. Bush have invited two priests from the Diocese of Providence, Monsignor Paul Theroux and Father Bernard Healey, to be among those who will join the President for the arrival ceremony:
“It is a tremendous honor to join the President of the United States in welcoming the Holy Father to the United States,” said Father Healey. “Pope Benedict XVI is only the second Pope to visit the White House, making this a truly historic event. The Holy Father’s visit presents a unique time in which Catholics throughout Rhode Island and the country may strengthen their faith in Christ and the Church.”
- USA Today reports that President Bush is throwing a dinner in honor of Pope Benedict XVI. There's just one wrinkle: It doesn't include the pope.
- Cardinal Martino has taken it upon himself to inform everybody that Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit to the White House to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush does not signal Vatican support of the Bush administration's foreign policies:
The cardinal spoke to reporters April 11 during a break in an international conference on disarmament sponsored by the Vatican council.I honestly don't know who is making that assumption at this point in time. Not even from the so-called "Catholic neoconservatives" like Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel or Michael Novak -- who simply state that there is a lot more to the U.S. / Vatican relationship than the dispute over Iraq; like their mutual agreement on a broad range of life issues, where our President does see "eye to eye".
"The pope and the Holy See cannot renounce with one visit all the Holy See's positions of rejecting war, always encouraging dialogue to smooth over disagreements and fostering cooperation," he said.
He said the argument that U.S.-led troops have to remain in Iraq in order to bring security and protect the Christian minority is open to question.
"Obviously the main error was to start a war, a second war" after the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, he said.
But whether it is wise to keep troops in Iraq is "a very difficult judgment" to make because some analysts say "the daily slaughter that unfolds in Iraq" is rooted in the continued presence of foreign troops, said the Italian cardinal.