Stephen Schneck , chair and associate professor of politics and director of the Life Cycle Institute, was quoted in a McClatchy News Service article about President Bush's meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. See the story below.

New pope likely to deliver same message to Bush on Iraq

From: McClatchy Newspapers Date: June 7, 2007 Author: William Douglas ROSTOCK, Germany - The last time President Bush visited the Vatican, he gave a frail Pope John Paul II the Medal of Freedom. The pope, in turn, gave the president a piece of his mind about Iraq, speaking out against the war. "Mr. President, your visit to Rome takes place at a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and in the Holy Land," the pontiff told Bush in June 2004. "You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made."

Bush returns to the Vatican on Saturday for his first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, the late John Paul II's successor. If the White House is looking for a change in the Vatican's strident stance against the war in Iraq, it isn't likely to get it from Benedict.

Before he assumed the papacy, the current pope, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was a key adviser to John Paul and urged him to take a strong position against the U.S-led pre-emptive strike against Iraq, Vatican experts said.

"If he (Bush) is looking for some kind of softening, some kind of hope to acquire some sort of blessing to the Bush legacy (on Iraq), I don't see it," said Stephen Schneck, the chairman of the department of politics at Washington's Catholic University of America. "He'll chide Bush on Iraq and U.S. foreign policy in general."

Pope Benedict already has spoken publicly, and negatively, about Iraq. In his Easter message to the faithful in St. Peter's Square, he lamented: "Nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees."

Former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President Clinton, said Bush should expect a frank discussion on Iraq from the pope, but not in as forceful a manner as he received from John Paul. Benedict has a quieter demeanor and style than his predecessor.

"Benedict XVI knows U.S. politics very, very well," Flynn said. "He'll look at President Bush and say (on Iraq), `Very big mistake, inexperienced, ill-advised - but he tried to do the right thing.'''

As he did with John Paul, the president should find common ground with Pope Benedict on abortion. Bush's last Vatican visit came in the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign, in which he and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry were vying for the Roman Catholic vote, a major bloc that accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. electorate.

While Bush can't run for a third term, his presence at the Vatican could influence the 2008 presidential race by serving as a reminder that all 2008 Republican presidential candidates but one - former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - oppose abortion.

Abortion has been a thorny issue for Giuliani, who supports legal abortion, as do all the 2008 Democratic candidates. Giuliani's abortion stance, amplified in recent televised Republican debates, renewed talk among some Catholic clergy about whether they should deny Communion or the use of church-related facilities to lawmakers or candidates who support abortion.

"To the extent that the Catholic vote can be kept in play, it benefits the Republican Party," Schneck said of Bush's Vatican trip. "It's good for domestic politics. A shift in the Catholic vote in Ohio could make all the difference."

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