When a beaming President Obama shook hands with
Pope Benedict XVI for
the first time in July, he was the latest in a long line of world
leaders to seek an audience with the pontiff.
“It’s a great honour,” Obama said as he greeted the Pope, thanking him
for their meeting at Vatican City. As he left he added, “We look forward
to a very strong relationship between our two countries.”
met the Holy Father in April last year, on his first
visit to the Vatican since he and Princess Diana met Pope John Paul II
in 1985. He and the Duchess Of Cornwall exchanged gifts with him and
Charles was “touched” by the Pope’s presents of an honorary medal and a
drawing of St Peter’s Basilica. In return, Charles gave the Pope plates
with paintings of plants from Highgrove.
In June 2006, Tony Blair had a private audience for more than
half-an-hour with Benedict in the pontiff’s Vatican study. Downing
Street said they “talked about the challenges of globalisation and the
importance of dialogue between the faiths to battle extremism and
Gordon Brown and his family met the Pope at the Vatican in February
2009. The Holy See said they had a “cordial” talk about the financial
crisis and “initiatives benefiting less developed countries”.
Gaffe-prone former President George W Bush was true to form when he
greeted the Pope in 2008 with,“Your Eminence, you’re looking good” – a
title reserved for cardinals – instead of “Your Holiness”.
But Benedict also meets ordinary people who need his prayers. Soon after
vanished in Portugal in May 2007, he met her parents
Kate and Gerry, and blessed a photo of their missing child.