For those who observed it closely, the recent perfunctory meeting of Pope Benedict XVI and President Bush at the Vatican offered a glimpse at what future relations between the United States and the Holy See will be like. In most respects, it appeared to be a typical rendezvous between two heads of state. The pontiff welcomed Bush cordially, setting the tone for a relaxed thirty-five minute discussion that was nearly as cordial. The two dignitaries discussed areas of mutual interest and concern including religious freedom, human rights, and the deteriorating political and economic situation in Africa and the Middle East. When they had finished talking, the Pope and president followed the usual diplomatic custom of exchanging gifts: Bush offered Benedict a walking stick carved with the Ten Commandments, while Benedict presented Bush with an engraving of St. Peter’s Basilica and a gold medallion representing his pontificate.But the very typical nature of this meeting between two such different leaders ought to make observers suspicious. Indeed, when I read articles from various media outlets describing it, I immediately had a sense that it was an attractive veneer, a mere formality lacking substance. This is not to question the sincerity of either President… Read full this story
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