Benedict rebuffs Bush dinner invitation

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The White House has scheduled a dinner in honour of Pope Benedict during his visit to the USA this week - but the pope is not attending, reports say.

The Raw Story reports that there are no competing events listed on the pope's schedule, and the White House was unable to explain Benedict's absence from the dinner.

The pontiff will be greeted by the president and first lady upon his arrival to the US Ton Tuesday and participate in a Rose Garden appearance and Oval Office meeting with President Bush the next day.

A dinner scheduled for later Wednesday night didn't make it onto the Benedict's schedule, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Friday at a press briefing.

However, Stanzel was unable to explain the pope's absence from the dinner.

According to the Raw Story, Benedict's travel schedule does not indicate any events that would conflict with his ability to attend the 7:30 pm dinner.

He is just scheduled to return to the Vatican embassy in Washington at the same time after a meeting with US bishops at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Meanwhile, The Age reports that the Pope will pray for the redemption of Islamic terrorists when he visits the site of the September 11 World Trade Centre attacks this week.

The pontiff, who arrives in New York on Tuesday, will call for terrorists to convert to Christianity, saying: "Turn to Your way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred.

"God of understanding, overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy, we seek your light and guidance."

The issue of sex abuse by priests will also feature prominently during the pope's visit, it is believed.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Vatican has said Pope Benedict will discuss the scandal during his US visit in an effort to heal wounds. Meetings with sex abuse victims are not on the pope's public schedule, but sometimes events are added at the last minute.

"In addition to apologising, Pope Benedict and all our bishops should meet with survivors, listen to their stories, and treat them with respect and compassion," said Dan Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based group formed after the scandal erupted there.

SOURCE

Pontiff not attending dinner in his honor, White House saysy (Raw Story, 12/4/08)

Pope to pray for Islamic terrorists in visit to Ground Zero (The Age, 14/4/08)

US Catholics seek bold papal action on sex abuse (Sydney Morning Herald, 13/4/08)

Roman Catholic Church sex scandals (Sydney Morning Herald, 13/4/08)

Act against predator priests, Pope told (News.com.au, 13/4/08)

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