by Steven Ertelt
April 15, 2008
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — President Bush and leading pro-life advocates welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to the United States on Tuesday. The president thanked the pope for standing up for pro-life principles and pro-life groups hope the Catholic Church leader will address abortion and bioethics issues during his visit.
During a Friday interview with EWTN, President Bush said he looked forward to meeting the pope and said he would thank him for supporting elected officials who stand up for life.
"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," Bush said.
While President Bush has pleased pro-life advocates during his tenure in office by signing pro-life bills and making sure tax dollars don’t go to new embryonic stem cell research, Pope Benedict’s visit is already sparking a renewed debate about abortion and communion.
During the 2004 elections several U.S. bishops indicated they wouldn’t give pro-abortion candidate John Kerry communion because of his pro-abortion views.
During that time, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger weighed in with a clear response to the debate.
He wrote that if an elected official is pro-abortion, the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.
During his visit, pro-abortion politicians are expected to attend various events, but Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Politico she knows of no plans to deny anyone communion.
You presume that everyone there knows the rules of the church and follows them, she said. No one is policing that. People go to church and people go to Communion if they feel in their heart they are prepared to receive Communion.
Meanwhile, Father Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, told LifeNews.com that the pontiff’s visit encourages groups like his that work full-time to present the pro-life message.
"With the visit of the Holy Father, we welcome an opportunity for that message to be echoed yet again," he said.
Pavone said the Pope’s visit allows him to strengthen the pro-life witness of the Catholic Church in the United States and to call non-Catholics to heed the pro-life perspective.
"In both of these dimensions, we at Priests for Life call on the American people to pay particular attention to what the Pope will say about human rights, starting with the most fundamental right, and the condition of all the others, the right to life," Pavone added.
Sen Sam Brownback, a pro-life Catholic who has been one of the leading lawmakers against abortion and human cloning in the Senate, also welcomed Pope Benedict.
I am pleased to welcome Pope Benedict to the United States and to recognize the unique insights his moral and spiritual reflections bring to the world stage," Brownback told LifeNews.com in a statement.
Pope Benedict works tirelessly for the recognition of human dignity and religious freedom around the world," the former Republican presidential candidate said.
Pope Benedict today arrives in Washington, D.C and, later this week he will travel to New York City. His visit marks the ninth visit of a pope to the United States.