VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II, in offering congratulations to President George W. Bush on his inauguration, prayed that the future of the United States would be marked by justice, freedom and respect for human dignity.
The Pope, in a Jan. 20 telegram, told Bush he prayed “that almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength of purpose in the exercise of your high office.”
Popes traditionally send a telegram of congratulations to new presidents of the United States on the day of their inauguration.
In his message to Bush, John Paul II said he prayed that under the new president's leadership, “the American people will discover in their rich religious and political heritage the ethical foundation for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom with unfailing respect for the dignity and rights of each individual, especially the poor, the defenseless and those who have no voice.”
The Pope also prayed that God would guide the president's efforts “to foster understanding, cooperation and peace among the peoples of the world.”
He also asked God to bless the Bush family and all the people of the United States.
On Jan. 21, Cardinal-designate Theodore McCarrick of Washington joined a rabbi, a Greek Orthodox priest and Protestant ministers in praying for President Bush and his new administration at a Sunday morning inaugural prayer service, the Associated Press reported.
The pews of Washington National Cathedral were filled with members of the Bush family, friends and supporters as the Rev. Franklin Graham, continuing a tradition established by his father, the Rev. Billy Graham, invoked blessings on the new government and its leaders.
“I pray that God will place his great hand of protection on each and everyone, and especially on you, Mr. President, and your family,” said Graham, who also said a prayer at Bush's swearing-in Saturday.
“The greatest threat, however, lies deep within our own hearts that are infected with greed, hate and lust,” Graham said in his sermon.
The service was held on Bush's first full day in office and came hours after he attended inaugural balls around the city.
One of the many clergymen offering prayers in the crossing before the altar of the Gothic-style Episcopalian cathedral was Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, who was wearing the red cap symbolic of his being named by the Pope earlier Sunday to the rank of cardinal.
In a prayer, Archbishop McCarrick asked God to grant “wisdom and grace” to Bush and all who will serve the nation in his administration.
Other clergy offering prayers were Rabbi Samuel Karff, Greek Orthodox Bishop Demetrios, the Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon, the bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, and the Very Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, dean of the cathedral.
The first inaugural prayer service was held on April 30, 1789, at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City for newly inaugurated President George Washington. President Franklin Roosevelt re-established the precedent in 1933.
Bush's father, President George H. Bush, attended a similar service at the cathedral on the Sunday after his inauguration in 1989. (From combined wire services)