04 June 2004
Pope John Paul II has told President Bush that the situation in Iraq should be normalized as soon as possible, with the help of the international community and the United Nations.
The pontiff called for a speedy return of Iraqi sovereignty, in conditions of security for all Iraqi people.
The two leaders met at the Vatican Friday, as protesters were gathering in Rome to demonstrate against U.S. actions in Iraq.
It is the first day of the president's European trip marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome and the D-Day invasion in Normandy during World War II.
Mr. Bush presented the pontiff with the presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. award for a civilian. He said the pope, through his faith and moral conviction, has given courage to others to overcome repression and topple Communism and tyranny.
Italian authorities have deployed about 10-thousand police in Rome, amid concerns that some protesters will try to disrupt the Bush visit.
From Italy, President Bush travels to Paris on Saturday to meet with French President Jacques Chirac, hoping to warm relations strained over Iraq. On Sunday, Mr. Bush will be among 17 heads of state and government due to attend ceremonies in Normandy commemorating the D-Day landings -- the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6, 1944.