- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

President Bush and a small U.S. delegation will attend Friday’s funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome, a trip the president yesterday called the ?majesty of celebrating such a significant human life.

The president is scheduled to leave Washington tomorrow morning with first lady Laura Bush and three other dignitaries, which could include former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton. Although the White House said the delegation would be named yesterday, late in the day Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said other members would not be announced until today.

Once in Rome, the president will meet one on one with some foreign leaders on Thursday, then attend the pope’s funeral Friday morning.

Mr. Bush said yesterday that he is looking forward to celebrating Pope John Paul II’s life and expressing Americans’ gratitude for a man he called courageous, moral and holy.

During a White House press conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Mr. Bush recalled a trip to the pope’s summer residence as one of the fondest memories of his presidency.

“I remember going to Castel Gandolfo — Laura and I were there, and I can remember him taking us out on the balcony of this fabulous palace overlooking a magnificent lake, and talking about his views of the world. It was a moment I’ll never forget,” he said.

Although Mr. Bush and the pope shared ideology on many issues, including the “culture of life,” they did not see eye to eye on the Iraq war.

“Of course he was a man of peace, and he didn’t like war,” Mr. Bush said. “And I fully understood that, and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject.”

Mr. Bush during his presidency met with the pope three times. The first meeting was on July 23, 2001, when he and the first lady visited the pope’s summer home. During their final meeting last June, the pope told the president about his deep disagreement with the war in Iraq, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops and Mr. Bush’s support for the death penalty.

Mr. Bush said the pope will be remembered for the huge influence that he had on the lives of young people around the world and how he demonstrated “that one man can make a difference in people’s lives.”

“He’s a courageous person. He’s a moral person. He was a godly person,” the president said.

It is “my great honor, on behalf of our country, to express our gratitude to the Almighty for such a man. And of course we look forward to the majesty of celebrating such a significant human life.”

After the funeral, the Bushes plan to fly to Texas so Mr. Bush can resume his plan to be at his ranch over the weekend and welcome Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon there on Monday.

The president will reschedule a trip to South Carolina to push for change to the Social Security system that was planned for Thursday. A visit to Fort Hood, Texas, originally scheduled for Friday, was rescheduled for April 12, Mr. McClellan said.

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