President Bush welcomed Pope Benedict to Washington on Wednesday, in the first papal visit to the White House in nearly 30 years.
Speaking to a crowd of nearly 9,000 people gathered for a reception on the White House lawn, the pontiff reaffirmed his position on human rights.
After noting the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Benedict said, "the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if all people are to live in a way worthy of their dignity as brothers and sisters."
After a brief meeting between Benedict and Bush, the Vatican and the White House released a joint statement, which said that among several issues, the leaders spoke at length about problems in the Middle East. Benedict has opposed the war in Iraq.
Benedict called for the use of "patient efforts of international diplomacy" to resolve conflicts. He also said that democracy succeeds only when political leaders have a clear moral vision.
The pontiff, who is on a six-day trip to the U.S., was greeted on his 81st birthday Wednesday by an elaborate ceremony at the White House, featuring the U.S. and Vatican anthems and a 21-gun salute.
Benedict praised American society in his speech and made references to the founding fathers, citing the Declaration of Independence and George Washington.
Bush welcomed the pope, saying that in America he would "find a nation that welcomes the role of religion in the public square."
Thousands of people lined the streets of Washington to cheer as Pope Benedict and his motorcade passed. Benedict smiled and waved from his chair inside the glass-walled, white popemobile.
Read the Joint Statement from the White House and the Holy See:
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and President George W. Bush met today in the Oval Office of the White House.
President Bush, on behalf of all Americans, welcomed the Holy Father, wished him a happy birthday, and thanked him for the spiritual and moral guidance, which he offers to the whole human family. The President wished the Pope every success in his Apostolic Journey and in his address at the United Nations, and expressed appreciation for the Pope's upcoming visit to "Ground Zero" in New York.
During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed: the respect of the dignity of the human person; the defense and promotion of life, matrimony and the family; the education of future generations; human rights and religious freedom; sustainable development and the struggle against poverty and pandemics, especially in Africa. In regard to the latter, the Holy Father welcomed the United States' substantial financial contributions in this area. The two reaffirmed their total rejection of terrorism as well as the manipulation of religion to justify immoral and violent acts against innocents. They further touched on the need to confront terrorism with appropriate means that respect the human person and his or her rights.
The Holy Father and the President devoted considerable time in their discussions to the Middle East, in particular resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict in line with the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, their mutual support for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, and their common concern for the situation in Iraq and particularly the precarious state of Christian communities there and elsewhere in the region. The Holy Father and the President expressed hope for an end to violence and for a prompt and comprehensive solution to the crises which afflict the region.
The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press.
Papal Etiquette: What to Do If You Meet the Pontiff
If you get a chance to meet Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the U.S., how should you act? NPR asked Monsignor K. Bartholomew Smith.
Smith knew Pope Benedict XVI back when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and has met the pontiff a few times since Benedict ascended to the papacy three years ago.
The pastor of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Md., formerly served at the Vatican as secretary to Cardinal William Baum. Here's his advice on proper papal protocol:
How should I dress?
If you are invited to an audience with the pope or will be attending an event where he'll be present, this is a time to put on your best, says Smith. For men, that means a jacket and tie and polished shoes. For women, a nice dress or suit works best — preferably one that covers the arms and has a hemline below the knees.
But Smith says if you're going to one of the stadium Masses or gathering along the popemobile route, leave your high heels at home and feel free to wear your favorite baseball cap. Casual dress is just fine.
What do I do when the pope enters?
Stand and applaud, the monsignor says. He says applause for the pope often varies according to the type and place of the event. In a small room, people often clap quietly, as if they were at a golf tournament. But in a big venue, such as a stadium, the crowd frequently greets the pope with loud cheers and a thunderous ovation. You're welcome to join in.
What if the pope approaches me?
Don't just stand there — genuflect. That means bend at the knee, for you non-Catholics.
Do I kiss the ring?
Yes, if you are Catholic and the pope offers his hand. If you're not Catholic, you can opt to shake his hand. That's what President Bush did on Tuesday when he met the pope at Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. The ring is a mark of the papacy and, according to Smith, kissing it is a sign of respect and affection.
What do I call the pope?
Address him as "Your Holiness" or "Holy Father."
What should I say to him?
Introduce yourself and tell him something about you. Decide in advance what you're going to say, but let him lead the conversation. Keep your answers short and direct. And speak clearly. Smith says sometimes people are so nervous, they whisper. Make sure the pope can hear you.
What happens at the end of the event?
When the pope gets up to leave, you should also stand up. Wait for him to leave the room before turning your attention to anything else.
Smith says Pope Benedict is a warm and humble man, who tries to make people comfortable in his presence. "You've got to be very careful if you introduce yourself to him," says Smith, "because he's very likely to remember."