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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 19:20 GMT 20:20 UK
Bush and Pope discuss sex scandal
President George W Bush and Pope John Paul II
The two men talked for 20 minutes
President George W Bush has discussed the sex scandal which has rocked the Catholic Church in the United States during a private audience with Pope John Paul II on Tuesday.

President Bush went to the Vatican from the airbase outside Rome where he had attended a historic Nato summit which gave Russia a far greater role in the alliance.


I will tell him I am concerned about the Catholic Church in America, I'm concerned about its standing

George W Bush
At the airbase, President Bush told reporters he considered the Pope to be "a man of enormous dignity and compassion".

"I'm going to closely listen to what the Pope has to say," Bush said.

"I will tell him that I am concerned about the Catholic church in America, I'm concerned about its standing."

Values

Vatican radio described the event as an 'extraordinary' meeting between "the head of the universal Church and that of the most powerful democracy on earth."

President Bush with a Vatican Swiss guard
President Bush entering the Vatican
In a statement after the meeting, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said that the Pope "wanted to express, despite the difficulty of the moment, his faith in the spiritual resources of American Catholics committed to bear witness to the values of the gospel in society."

The two men also discussed the Middle East and Russia.

Scandal

The Catholic Church in the United States has been rocked by allegations of paedophilia and the covering up of wrong-doing by high-level church officials.

In April, the Pope called American cardinals to an emergency summit in Rome to discuss the sex scandals in the US church.

He condemned any sexual abuse by priests as a crime, and said there was no room in the priesthood for anyone who committed such acts.

The Vatican meeting is the second time the American president and the Pope have held talks.

Pope John Paul II at communion
The Pope celebrates mass in Bulgaria
They first met at the pontiff's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo last summer.

On that occasion, their talk included the problems of globalisation and the use of human embryos for cloning.

This time, the private meeting lasted some 20 minutes, after which President Bush began his journey back to the United States, ending his week-long visit to Europe.

The Church has been rocked by recent abuse revelations

Boston cardinal quits

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28 May 02 | Europe
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