President Bush visits Pope Benedict

 Pope Benedict and President Bush met for the first time on Saturday at the Vatican. During the private 30-minute meeting, the Holy Father expressed concerns about "the worrying situation in Iraq," and in particular the treatment of minority Christians there. Speaking to reporters later in the day, after lunch with Italian Prime Minister Prodi, Bush said that he was "in awe" of the Holy Father and said he felt he had been "talking to a very smart, loving man." The president said he reminded the Pope of America's commitment to spend more on AIDS in Africa and American attempts to "feed the hungry." In a statement, the Vatican said the meeting had been "cordial". It said both the Pope and his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who also met Mr Bush, raised "Israeli-Palestinian questions, Lebanon, the worrying situation in Iraq and the critical conditions in which the Christian community finds itself." Ten of thousands of antiwar demonstrators filled the streets of Rome during the president's visit. The Italian authorities were so concerned about Mr Bush's safety that the White House cancelled plans for him to visit the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome. Source: VIS/White House

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