VATICAN CITY (CNS): In their first meeting since the Iraq war, Pope John Paul II told US President George W. Bush he was deeply concerned about the “grave unrest” in Iraq and called for a speedy restoration of the country’s sovereignty.
During a 50-minute encounter on June 4, the Pope firmly reminded the US President of the Vatican’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq last year.
What Iraq needs today, he said, is for the situation to be normalised as quickly as possible, under a framework of greater international co-operation.
The Pope described international terrorism as a “source of constant concern”. But in an apparent reference to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers, he said recent “deplorable events” have undermined the values that are essential to defeating terrorism.
In a brief talk to the Pope, President Bush presented the pontiff with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and called him a “hero of our time” for his defence of human freedom and dignity.