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Pope Benedict to Hold Talks with President Bush


Pope Benedict visits the White House Wednesday for formal talks with President Bush.

Tuesday, cheering crowds sang birthday wishes to the pope, who turns 81 today, as he arrived at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

He was welcomed by Mr. Bush, his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, and their daughter Jenna. No visiting foreign leader has ever been welcomed at the airport by President Bush.

The pontiff told reporters during his flight to Washington that he will raise the issue of immigration in his talks with Mr. Bush. Pope Benedict said the separation of families is the most serious aspect of the issue, calling it "dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the president and the pope will also discuss human rights, the political crisis in Lebanon, and disease and hunger in Africa. She says Mr. Bush will not bring up the war in Iraq, which the Vatican strongly opposes.

During his flight to the U.S., Pope Benedict told reporters he felt deep shame over the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. The Church has paid at least two billion dollars to victims of abuse and hundreds of priests have been removed.

The pontiff's is scheduled to celebrate open-air masses in Washington and New York during his six-day U.S. visit. He will also address leaders of Catholic colleges, speak at the United Nations, and visit the site of the former World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

This Saturday will mark the third anniversary of his election as pontiff.

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