The latest leg of Bush’s European tour includes a visit to the Vatican and an audience with Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, Bush did not attempt to deliver a massage, but his conduct did elicit audible gasps from the crowd:
US President George W Bush drew gasps at the Vatican on Saturday by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as “sir” instead of the expected “His Holiness”, pool reporters said. They could clearly hear the US leader say “Yes, sir” when the pope asked him if he was going to meet with officials of the lay Catholic Sant’Egidio community at the US embassy later during his visit. A handful of pool reporters were on hand as Benedict greeted Bush at the door of his private library ahead of a private audience of about half an hour.
On his way to see the 80-year-old pontiff, the US leader apparently recognised someone he knew, and could be heard greeting the person with a casual “How ya doin’?” The pool reporters also noted Bush’s relaxed posture, crossing his legs “Texan style” while facing the pope across his desk in the private study of the apostolic palace.
This followed a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Prodi at which Bush was all but incoherent. A sample of the transcript on the White House website:
Q Thank you. You’ve just told us that you and President Bush have just returned from your G8 summit. Now, the outcomes that have been stated on the many issues that you discussed — climate, development, and the missile shield — now, are those real — is that real progress, or not? And the deadline for the Kosovo independence —
PRESIDENT BUSH: What? Say that again?
Q Deadline for the Kosovo independence?
PRESIDENT BUSH: A decline?
Q Deadline, deadline.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Deadline. Beg your pardon. My English isn’t very good.
Now, it’s on to Tirana, Albania, which is the only place in Europe where Bush’s handlers can be confident of a friendly crowd.