Reporter's Notebook: Bush on Pope Benedict

The president discusses the Holy See's worldwide influence.

ByABC News
April 15, 2008, 5:55 PM

April 15, 2008 — -- ABC News' Cokie Roberts was invited to ride with President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and First Daughter Jenna Bush in their limousine for the president's unprecedented trip from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to greet Pope Benedict XVI in his first visit to the US.

The president said the pope is a worldwide spiritual leader and that millions of American citizens are excited about having him in this country and that he, the president, wanted to go to Andrews Air Force Base as a sign of respect.

He said the pope is major figure in the world and more people listen to him than anyone else in the world.

The president wants to talk to the pope a great deal about interfaith dialogue, particularly in terms of relations with Islam. And he is very curious about the recent visit by Saudi Prince Abdullah to the pope.

He's also curious to see if the pope brings up Cuba because the Vatican foreign office has been talking about that and they are not on the same page as the US administration on that subject. The Vatican's secretary of state has criticized the US embargo against Cuba.

The president said that he doesn't expect to be lectured on Iraq. The pope, he knows, disapproved of military action but that he now thinks that a precipitous drawdown of troops in Iraq would be dangerous to the Christian community in Iraq.

The president said every time he has been around a Holy Father, both Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II that he has come away a better person.

"They belive in moral truths," Bush said. "They value life."

The president said he shares many of the same beliefs as the pope. The thing he likes about the pope is that he speaks with moral clarity about certain truths and that he does not believe in moral relativism.