January 28, 2001
volume 12, no. 28
Bush Meets Catholic Leaders to Push Faith-based Solutions

Cardinal-elect Theodore McCarrick acknowledged as key counselor for President Bush's proposals

    WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 26, 01 ( - President George W. Bush had dinner with a group of bishops in Washington on Thursday to discuss his plans to work with the religious community to implement faith-based solutions to some of America's social problems.

    Bush and First Lady Laura Bush dined at the residence of Cardinal-designate Theodore McCarrick of Washington, along with retired Cardinal James Hickey, papal nuncio Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, and Bishop William Lori, recently elevated from auxiliary bishop to bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    The Bush administration said the dinner was in part to get acquainted, but also part of Bush's effort to reach out to leaders from various religions before he launches a plan to boost the role of religious-based organizations and charities in tackling the toughest social problems. Bush said he hoped to speak of his plans for reform with the bishops whom he called "men of great faith, of huge compassion for the poor and the oppressed."

    Bush plans to set up an "Office of Faith-Based Action" -- a West Wing office to help religious organizations become eligible for federal funds for their social programs. "His focus is going to be on helping people get through some of the worst problems they face in life -- alcoholism, prisons, children of prisoners, helping people leaving prisons reenter the workforce," presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "This is in many ways the next step in welfare reform."

Also: Two D.C. newcomers get acquainted over dinner

By Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service

    HYATTSVILLE, Md. (CNS) -- For ``just a dinner,'' the arrangements for two of Washington's newest residents to sit down over a little Chilean sea bass were pretty elaborate.

    Even when you're the archbishop of Washington, if the president and his wife accept your invitation to dinner, nothing is simple.

    Besides worrying about the menu, there's the question of when to send home all the employees of the archdiocesan pastoral center who share the building with your apartment to allow time for the Secret Service security sweep. There's figuring out where to park a couple dozen members of the president's traveling press pool during the dinner. And what sort of a gift do you give a new president of the United States?

    Cardinal-designate Theodore E. McCarrick didn't really have to sort out all those details himself before President Bush and first lady Laura Bush came to dinner at his apartment Jan. 25.

    But someone did -- along with working out security clearances for the few staff people who stayed; temporarily closing streets for the motorcade on the 6.5-mile route between the White House and the pastoral center; scanning everyone on the premises for weapons with a hand-held magnetometer; and a hundred other details.

    Cardinal-designate McCarrick wasn't exempt from a little last-minute scurrying up and down the stairs to his apartment -- making sure everything was ready for his guests before he met the presidential limousine at the front door.

    The dinner came in a momentous week for both men. Bush was inaugurated as president just five days earlier. And on the day after Inauguration Day, the new archbishop of Washington -- who'd officially been on the job just two and a half weeks -- was among 37 new cardinals named by Pope John Paul II. They will be installed at a consistory at the Vatican Feb. 21.

    The Washington newcomers were joined by Cardinal James A. Hickey, who recently retired as Washington's archbishop; Washington's longtime auxiliary, Bishop William E. Lori, named Jan. 23 to head the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn.; the president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, from the Galveston-Houston Diocese in the Bushes' home state of Texas; and the president's guests, White House General Counsel Al Gonzales and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

    Archdiocesan spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said after the dinner that the evening was primarily a ``friendly, get-to-know-you dinner.'' There was some brief discussion about Bush's plans for new initiatives encouraging faith-based organizations to take on various programs from the government, she said. But it wasn't substantial, two of the bishops at the dinner told her.

    At an event earlier in the day, Bush said he hoped to talk to the bishops about education reform as well. None of the participants spoke with the press after the event.

    By the way, here's how those questions facing Cardinal-designate McCarrick and the archdiocesan employees planning the event were handled: Employees at the pastoral center were dismissed about mid-afternoon. The press corps cooled their heels in a conference room a floor below the archbishop's apartment, where Gibbs provided coffee. And Cardinal-designate McCarrick presented the Bushes with two gifts, a small icon and a medallion of the pope.

January 28, 2001
volume 12, no. 28
USA News
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