Pope to president: Don't call me, I'll call you

Bush will host a White House dinner in the pope's honor, but the pope won't be there.

By Steve Benen

Published April 15, 2008 2:04PM (EDT)

There may be an explanation for this that doesn't look like an obvious snub, but nothing comes to mind.

Guess who's not coming to dinner? Pope Benedict XVI.

President Bush and his wife, Laura, will host a White House dinner in honor of the pontiff Wednesday evening. U.S. Catholic leaders from around the nation will attend. The menu will offer Bavarian-style food in recognition of the pope's German heritage. It's even the pope's 81st birthday. But he won't be there.

"He's on a very ambitious official schedule," Anita McBride, Mrs. Bush's chief of staff, said Friday. "He'll be meeting with U.S. bishops that night" at a university in Washington.

Now, it's not that the pope is avoiding Bush altogether. The president and first lady will greet the pope at Andrews Air Force Base, and there will be a formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House tomorrow morning.

But the White House also scheduled a dinner in the pope's honor for that evening, and he's apparently decided he has better things to do on Wednesday night.

Complicating matters, Raw Story reported that there are "no competing events listed on the pope's schedule."

And making matters slightly worse, the White House can't explain why Pope Benedict XVI won't attend the dinner in his honor.


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