BY MARK GREAVES
POPE BENEDICT xvt was personally greeted by George W Bush as he arrived in America on Tuesday for his first official visit as pope.
It is the first time that the President has gone to the Andrews Air Force Base to welcome a head of state.
Benedict XVI met Mr Bush and his wife Laura on the airport tarmac while hundreds of spectators clapped and cheered at his arrival.
America's most senior bishops, including Cardinal Francis E George of Chicago, president of the US bishops' conference, also gathered to meet the Pope.
During his six-day visit Benedict XVI will address the UN and lead prayers at Ground Zero, New York, where the World Trade Centre was destroyed on September 11, 2001.
On Wednesday he was to pay a formal call on Mr Bush at the White House. An unprecedented crowd of 10,000 people was expected to assemble on the White House lawn.
Mr Bush was due to host a dinner at the White House with a Bavarian-style menu to celebrate the Pope's heritage. However, a spokesman said that Benedict XVI himself would be unable to attend.
The Pontiff told reporters on board' his flight to Washington that he was• "deeply ashamed" of sexual abuse by American priests.
He said the Church would work towards avoiding such scandals in the future and that it would "absolutely exclude paedophiles from the sacred ministry".
The American Church has paid a total of £.1 billion to settle clergy sex abuse cases over the past few years and some dioceses have been left bankrupt.
Benedict XVI said: "I am deeply ashamed and will do whatever is possible so that this does not happen in the future.
"It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heat this wound."