WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- U.S. President George Bush said that when he looks into Benedict XVI's eyes, he sees God.
The president made this affirmation Friday when he answered the last question posed him during an interview with Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) anchor Raymond Arroyo.
Arroyo noted that Bush is planning an all-out welcome for the Pope, who arrives in the United States on Tuesday for a five-day visit. Most notably, Bush will go to the airport to receive the Holy Father, a courtesy he has never extended to any visiting leader.
The president says he plans to do this "because [the Pope] is a really important figure in a lot of ways. One, he speaks for millions. Two, he doesn't come as a politician; he comes as a man of faith. And, three, that I so subscribe to his notion that [...] there's right and wrong in life, that moral relativism has a danger of undermining the capacity to have more hopeful and free societies, that I want to honor his convictions, as well."
The Holy Father, Bush said, "represents and stands for some values that I think are important for the health of the country, and when he comes to America, millions of my fellow citizens will be hanging on his every word. And that's why it's important."
The EWTN anchor noted that the Pope will probably bring up the issue of the war in Iraq, asking what the U.S. government is doing to protect the Christian minority there.
Bush said that "something we have been doing all along, is urging the government to understand that minority rights are a vital part of any democratic society. And by the way, my concern isn't just for minority rights in Iraq; it's for minority rights throughout the Middle East."
In another area of rights, Arroyo asked Bush why he plans to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies in Beijing, given China's dire human rights record.
Bush stated that he did not want to make the Olympics a political platform: "And the reason why is because I can talk to [China] about religious freedom prior to the Olympics, during the Olympics and after the Olympics -- which I have done. I don't need the Olympics to express my position to the Chinese leadership on freedom. I just don't need them -- because that's all I have been doing as your president. In other words -- if people say, well, you need to express yourself clearly about freedom of religion, my answer is, what do you think I've been doing?"
Bush talked as well about embryonic stem cell research, for which he has restricted federal funding.
Arroyo noted, "In 2001 you met with then Pope John Paul II; he encouraged you not to endorse federal funding. You didn't; you restricted the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. [...] As a result of that move, alternative technologies were analyzed; adult stem cells have now produced [...] cures for 80 different diseases."
And Bush affirmed: "I feel like it was the right decision then, and obviously the data has now shown that -- I hope it shows to people it's the right decision. [...] By the way, I think this is the beginning of what is a very interesting debate that future presidents are going to have to deal with, and that is science versus ethics, the value of life versus saving life -- supposedly. [...] I've obviously drawn the line in the sand that honoring life in all forms is a touchstone for good science.
"I think it's important for people to understand that a culture of life is in our national interests and that -- it's also important to understand that the politics of abortion isn't going to change until people's hearts change, and fully understand the meaning of life and what it means for a society to value life in all forms -- whether it be the life of the unborn, or the life of the elderly; whether it be the life of the less fortunate among us, or the life of the rich guy. I mean, it's a moral touchstone, I think, that will speak to a healthy society in the long run."
The president said that the moral strength of the Pope is key for politicians.
"And I'm going to remind His Holy Father how important his voice is in making it easier for politicians like me to be able to kind of stand and defend our positions that are, I think, very important positions to take," he said.
Finally, Arroyo asked him, "You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul. [...] When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?"
And Bush answered immediately, "God."