President Barack Obama's upcoming meeting with Pope Benedict XVI on July 10 at the Vatican marks the 27th time in history a sitting U.S. President has met with a pope. The meetings, which will now include 12 presidents and 5 popes, are replete with historical odds and ends. So we've done our best to generate a complete list below:
1. Woodrow Wilson meets Benedict XV, the Vatican, January 4, 1919. Meeting just after the end of World War I, President Wilson had pushed for a lasting peace via his failed League of Nations, and Pope Benedict had been a powerful advocate for peace throughout the war. Perhaps it's fitting that these two would meet and that their meeting would be the historic first ever of its kind.
2. Dwight D. Eisenhower meets John XXIII, the Vatican, December 6, 1959. Following a 40-year hiatus, this meeting would begin in earnest the precedent of every pope and every president meeting. While apparently very genial, this meeting also faced the challenge of Eisenhower not knowing Italian and John XXIII not knowing English.
3. John F. Kennedy meets Paul VI, the Vatican, July 2, 1963. While Jacqueline Kennedy met John XXIII in a private audience, President Kennedy missed him by a month, instead visiting the newly-elected Pope Paul. The reportedly discussed civil rights.
4. Lyndon Johnson meets Paul VI, New York, October 4, 1965. This meeting took place in the historical context of the first visit by a pope to the United States. Paul VI would visit and address the United Nations while he was in town.
5. Lyndon Johnson meets Paul VI, the Vatican, December 23, 1967. This was the first repeat encounter between a particular pope and president. Johnson's record will be matched by Nixon and shattered by the likes of Reagan and Clinton. Pope Paul will go on to meet two more presidents.
6. Richard Nixon meets Paul VI, the Vatican, March 2, 1969.
7. Richard Nixon meets Paul VI, the Vatican, September 29, 1970.
8. Gerald Ford meets Paul VI, the Vatican, June 3, 1975. President Ford was the fourth and final president met by Pope Paul. John Paul II would meet five.
9. Jimmy Carter meets John Paul II, the White House, October 6, 1979. Along with being the first of 15 meetings between Pope John Paul and a sitting president, this was the first time any pope came to the White House, an event that would go unrepeated until 2008.
10. Jimmy Carter meets John Paul II, the Vatican, June 21, 1980.
11. Ronald Reagan meets John Paul II, the Vatican, June 7, 1982.
12. Ronald Reagan meets John Paul II, Fairbanks, Alaska, May 2, 1984. Pope John Paul was stopping to refuel on his way to Seoul. President Reagan was on his way back from China. While quick and in passing, this meeting still allowed the two to speak about the pressing issues of the time. It also followed shortly after the U.S. and the Holy See formally opened diplomatic relations.
13. Ronald Reagan meets John Paul II, the Vatican, June 6, 1987.
14. Ronald Reagan meets John Paul II, Miama, September 10, 1987.
15. George Bush meets John Paul II, the Vatican, May 27, 1989.
16. George Bush meets John Paul II, the Vatican, November 8, 1991.
17. Bill Clinton meets John Paul II, Denver, August 12, 1993. Pope John Paul was in town for World Youth Day.
18. Bill Clinton meets John Paul II, the Vatican, June 2, 1994.
19. Bill Clinton meets John Paul II, Newark, October 4, 1995.
20. Bill Clinton meets John Paul II, St. Louis, January 26, 1999. President Clinton met with the pope more times on American soil than any other president. Of course, one could argue a traveler like JPII made it easy for him.
21. George W. Bush meets John Paul II, Castel Gandolfo, July 23, 2001. This is the first and only time a pope received a president at the papal summer residence in Italy.
22. George W. Bush meets John Paul II, the Vatican, May 28, 2002.
23. George W. Bush meets John Paul II, the Vatican, June 4, 2004. President Bush presented Pope John Paul with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
24. George W. Bush meets Benedict XVI, the Vatican, June 9, 2007. It's worth noting that President Bush, along with former Presidents Bush and Clinton, also attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II in April of 2005.
25. George W. Bush meets Benedict XVI, the White House, April 16 2008. President Bush also greeted Pope Benedict upon his arrival at Andrews Airforce Base. The White House reception also included a birthday celebration for the pope.
26. George W. Bush meets Benedict XVI, the Vatican, June 13, 2008. President Bush holds the distinction of being the only sitting U.S. president to meet two popes. He has also met with the pope the more times than any sitting president, six.
27. Barack Obama will meet Benedict XVI, the Vatican, July 10, 2009. Coming on the heels of the G8 Summit and the pope's new encyclical, one could expect global economic issues to be a topic of discussion. President Obama held a roundtable discussion with religion writers at the White House in anticipation of the meeting. Check Catholic News Service for updates as the meeting unfolds.
Hat tip to AP for the list of historic dates and places.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
When a Pope Meets a President
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