IMAGE: Bush at the pope's funeral
Andrew Medichini  /  AP
President Bush, right center, touches his forehead during the funeral of Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Friday. Standing to his left are first lady Laura Bush, Bernadette Chirac and French President Jacques Chirac.
updated 4/9/2005 10:50:59 AM ET 2005-04-09T14:50:59

President Bush praised Pope John Paul II on Saturday for facing down totalitarianism throughout his life and showing communist rulers that “moral truth had legions of its own.”

Just back from the pope’s funeral Friday night, Bush paid his final respects to the late leader of the Roman Catholic Church in his weekly radio address.

He said the services that brought kings, presidents and pilgrims from across the globe to Rome was a “powerful and moving reminder of the profound impact this pope had on our world.”

“Everywhere he went, the pope preached that the call of freedom is for every member of the human family because the author of life wrote it into our common human nature,” the president said. “Many in the West underestimated the pope’s influence. But those behind the Iron Curtain knew better, and ultimately even the Berlin Wall could not withstand the gale force of this Polish pope.”

As Bush seeks to spread democracy to other nations, he often talks of freedom as a gift from God. He said John Paul was committed to this ideal from his young life in Poland, when he eluded the Gestapo to attend an underground seminary.

“Later, when he was named Poland’s youngest bishop, he came face to face with the other great totalitarianism of the 20th century: communism,” Bush said. “And soon he taught the communist rulers in Warsaw and Moscow that moral truth had legions of its own and a force greater than their armies and secret police.”

First president at papal funeral
Bush became the first sitting U.S. president to attend a papal funeral. During his flight back to the United States, he said the funeral touched him more than he expected and would be a highlight of his presidency.

“Today’s ceremony, I bet you, for millions of people was a reaffirmation for many and a way to make sure doubts don’t seep into your soul,” he said.

Bush told reporters aboard Air Force One from Italy that he:

  • Will tell Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop construction on Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He and Sharon plan to meet Monday at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, near Waco.
  • Disagreed with former President Clinton’s comment that the pope will have a “mixed legacy.” John Paul will have a clear and excellent legacy of peace, compassion and “setting a clear moral tone,” he said.
  • Isn’t concerned about an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Friday that shows 54 percent of Americans don’t like the job he’s doing. “You can pretty much find out what you want in polls,” he said.

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