Anything behind the Benedict/ White House dinner story?

April 15, 2008

President Bush at a White House dinner for U.S. governors, 25 Feb 2008/Jonathan ErnstJust before leaving for Washington to cover Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit, I got an interesting comment from a FaithWorld reader on another post about the trip:

Pope Benedict will skip White House dinner (in his honor!) with Bush. This is the incredibly significant detail of Pope’s visit. Why Mr. Henegan (sic) is so shy on this significance? Finally, the highest clerical authorities started behave like adults and demonstrate true feeling to the monster in the White House. The Christian communities around the world condemn the anti-Christian American president, though the American evangelicals are still behind and still cannot see the anti-Christ monstrosities emanating from the current administration.

I thought this was quite imaginative and said so. Pope Benedict does not like big fancy dinners and usually spends quiet evenings on his trips dining and conversing with the local cardinal, archbishop or nuncio. There was never any question of him changing this routine. There’s not much use scrutinising his agenda to see if he has time after all to pop over to the White House.

On arriving here, I’ve now heard or seen the”pope-no-show” story on the radio, on television and in today’s Washington Post (“Guess who’s not coming to dinner?“). These reports simply noted the facts, without the imaginative slant of the above comment or the explanation in response.

Is there another story behind this that political reporters are overlooking? What is the purpose of throwing a big party at the White House if the guest of honour can’t make it? It must be to please the people who attend. And who’s attending? White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said they would be “leaders from the Catholic community from all over the country who are in town for that visit.”

Is there some election year/Catholic vote angle in this?

UPDATE: John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter has a post entitled RUMOR CONTROL and the first one he bats down is “The Pope is “snubbing” President Bush by not attending a White House dinner in his honor.

Pope John Paul II serves homeless people at the Vatican, 4 Jan 1987/VaticanP.S. I don’t know how long it’s been since the Vatican has held a big state dinner worthy of the many opulent rooms it has where it could hold one. They must have done it a lot centuries ago, but recently? I searched through our photo database looking for a shot of a pope proposing a toast for a visiting king or showing a president his seat at a long table groaning with golden cutlery and fine china. All I found, though, was a black-and-white shot from 1987 when the late Pope John Paul invited homeless people in for a meal and served some himself.


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your holines pap please skip the white house dinner, I dont see why he should you sit with President Bush and even have have a drink, 1. Bush has allowed innocent women and children to die in my country Kenya by allowing kibaki to steal a vote he LOST by simply encouraging a coalition govt. and if you go please ask Bush if he would invite Osama Bin Laden to dinner in the spirit of loving our enemies as our Lord Jesus commanded? 2. Under his eyes millions are dying in Darfur and his friends in China are doing business as usual as if nothing is wrong in darfur, Please your Holiness, if you go, tell him 3 million Zimbabweans have fled and the country is in the intensive care unit, ask him to stand up for truth, 3. if you go Papa, dont go at night, remember, Nicodemus we to see Jesus at night…

Posted by paul ramses | Report as abusive

As the post said, he’s not going to the dinner.

Posted by Tom Heneghan | Report as abusive

Oh for crying out loud, the pope does not go to dinners. NONE Of them do. The pope does not eat in public and he doesn’t go to dinners. Sheesh. Trust the press to make something of nothing.

Posted by akke | Report as abusive

Mr. Ramses,

This may come as a surprise to you, but George Bush is the President of the United States, not the President of Africa. If you are African, may I suggest that you deal with African problems yourself instead of blaming everything that happens in the world on the United States. In the US, we are into “self reliance.” It’s a good way to solve problems without beating the old drum of victimology. The more personal responsibility you can build in your country, the less you will need to whine – a quality we find profoundly unattractive.

Posted by Dorothy | Report as abusive

The pope is a bit of a pretender and believes that he is God’s Attorney General and that we are crumbs. I strongly suggest, therefore, that all inhabitants of the U.S. proceed at once to turn back their clocks for a week or so to the time of the Dark Ages when religion ruled the world.

Posted by Dilberth | Report as abusive

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