U.S. President George W. Bush says he is concerned about the state of the Roman Catholic Church in America. The president says he plans to bring up the matter when he meets, later today, at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II.
President Bush says the Catholic Church is an important institution in America. And he makes clear he is worried that its standing in the country may be in trouble.
There are accusations that some priests have sexually abused children and criticism that the church hierarchy in the United States virtually ignored the problem for years.
It is a sensitive topic, but one the president says he will discuss with the pope. Speaking to reporters just before the start of an historic NATO summit outside Rome, Mr. Bush said he will listen closely to the Pope's words, saying he is a man of enormous dignity and compassion.
This will be the president's second meeting with the Pope in less than a year. They met last July at the pope's summer residence, outside Rome. This meeting will be much shorter and is only expected to run about half an hour.