In the heart of a gritty urban archdiocese, President Clinton and Pope John Paul II held a warm face-to-face meeting Wednesday, a short time after the pope offered a pointed admonishment against current proposals to restrict immigration and limit services for the poor - in terms that closely echoed many of Clinton’s own recent warnings.
“From its beginning until now, the United States has been a haven for generation after generation of new arrivals,” the pope said minutes after his own arrival at a rain-swept Newark International Airport, before the two men repaired to a private meeting and a vespers service at Sacred Heart Cathedral downtown.
“It would indeed be sad if the United States were to turn away from that enterprising spirit which has always sought the most practical and responsible ways of continuing to share with others the blessings God has richly bestowed here.”
With that pointed statement he went on in words that seemed to repeat Clinton’s own warnings that the nation’s social safety-net must be protected while welfare programs are overhauled.
“The same spirit of creative generosity will help you to meet the needs of your own poor and disadvantaged,” the pope added. “They too have a role to play in building a society truly worthy of the human person - a society in which none are so poor that they have nothing to give and none are so rich that they have nothing to receive. The poor have needs which are not only material and economic, but also involve liberating their potential to work out their own destiny and to provide for the well being of their families and communities.”
Later, seated on maroon velvet chairs in the residence of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark, the two men spent about half an hour reviewing other issues, principally the quest for peace in Bosnia and also the Vatican’s diplomatic efforts in Rwanda, Burundi and Northern Ireland.
In all, it was a welcome communion for Clinton. Aides say he has shared a good personal chemistry with the pontiff - though the president’s support for abortion rights drew a public rebuke from the pope after their first meeting in Denver two years ago. Their divergent positions on such issues remains a sharp point of disagreement.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PARISHIONERS ON ANOTHER PILGRIMAGE Forgive them, Pope John Paul II. It’s just that, well, the plans were made months in advance. And the slot machines could be hot. Hours before the pope arrived Wednesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 80 senior citizens boarded buses outside the parish hall for the Atlantic City casinos. “It’s ironic,” acknowledged Sebastian DeFroscia, president of the Sacred Heart September Club, which sponsored the $70 overnight trip. Some parishioners admitted feeling a twinge of guilt about the timing. “I’m sorry this happened the same day. It’s one of those things,” said Frank Pennella, 77. Others were more pragmatic. After all, the pope’s evening service at the cathedral was by invitation only. - Associated Press
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