President tells Americans to love the unborn child, reports Simon Caldwell THE PRESIDENT of the United States has put his weight behind the teaching of the Catholic Church on the right to life.
President George W Bush told seven American cardinals and 1,200 guests at the opening of the Pope John Paul 11 Cultural Centre in Washington DC that the Holy Father was "never more eloquent than when he speaks for a culture of life".
And he received a standing ovation when he said: "We must teach our children to be gentle with one another. We must defend in love the innocent child waiting to be born."
According to reports, the few people not to join the applause included Democrat Senator Edward Kennedy and his niece, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of the late John F Kennedy.
President Bush, an Episcopalian who has been criticised for forging close links with the Catholic Church echoed the Pope's challenge to society toadopt a "culture of life" — ''a welcoming culture, never excluding, never dividing, never despairing and always affirming the goodness of life in all its seasons".
He said such a culture must make room for the stranger, the sick, the aged and immigrants and said society was "responsible to stand for human dignity and religious freedom wherever they are denied, from Cuba to China to southern Sudan".
President Bush traced highlights of the Pope's life from a 1976 stop in Washington to speak at the Catholic University of America through his first visit to Poland after becoming pope.
"That visit," President Bush said, was "when faith turned into resistance and began the swift collapse of imperial communism".
The President noted that the last leader of the Soviet Union called the Pope "the highest moral authority on earth".
He referred to the Pope's visits to the Philippines in 1995 when more than five million people came to see him, and to Israel last year, "on a mission of reconciliation and mutual respect between Christians and Jews".
The evening before, President Bush hosted about 60 bishops and other church leaders at a reception at the White House.He said the best way to honour the Pope was "to take his teaching seriously, listen to his words and put his words and teachings into action here in America".
Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida, president of the centre, which has been dedicated to the Catholic faith, told the audience that the Pope insisted it be located in Washington instead of other suggested sites, including Warsaw or Krakow in Poland.
"He sees Washington DC as the crossroads of the world," Cardinal Maida said. "The centre's location here will allow it to impact and shape the many events
that transpire here." In a letter read by Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City, the Pope said he was grateful -the new centre was planned as a means of introducing visitors to Catholic cultural life
and as a place of study and reflection on themes related to the religious and humanitarian mission which the Church is called to carry forward at the dawn of the third millennium".
Cardinal Maida said the centre's founders hoped it would "inspire, and motivate, form and shape a whole new generation of Christian leaders who will bring their faith values to the marketplace and to all the professions".
The 100,000 sq ft building on 12 acres near Catholic University cost $60 million, which was raised through private donations. Features include a 75ft gilded cross, 89 bronze casts of hands collected from 24 countries visited by the Pope and 38 works of art from the Vatican.