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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

White House Faith-Based Director Jim Towey
October 23, 2003

Jim will be with us shortly. He was part US Delegation to Rome and attended various events surrounding the Pope's 25th Anniversary and Mother Teresa's Beatification.

Jim Towey
Hello. It was a privilege to represent the President and our country at this great time of celebration. Remembering all that Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa have done to make the world a better place. The four days our group had in Rome were extraordinary and Mrs. Columba Bush, the wife of Governor Jeb Bush, headed up our delegation and was elegant and magnificent in how she represented the President and our country.

richard, from massachusetts writes:
did you meet with the pope?

Jim Towey
Mrs. Bush and I and a man named Joe Canizarro did have the opportunity at the conclusion of the mass where Mother Teresa was honored to briefly meet the Pope -- that was the highlight of the trip.

Robert, from Dayton TX writes:
You know as well as anyone that the pope has the best job in the world, and even given his health, chances are he wont retire (as if anyone would) given all that, has he made any plans to return to the United states before he steps down?

Jim Towey
I asked the US Ambassador to the Vatican, Jim Nicholson, and he said it was highly unlikely because it is evident that the Pope's physical condition would prevent him from making such a trip.

John, from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio writes:
Is St. Pauls the most beautiful church that you have ever seen? Please describe it for the rest of us. What did you do when you were at the Vatican?

Jim Towey
The masses were held at St. Peters Basilica which is a spectacular church. It was on these exact grounds that Christians believe that St. Peter and many other Christians who had been blamed by Nero for the terrible fire that devastated Rome, were martyred. We were able to actually go on a tour of what is known as "Scavi," to see where the remains of St. Peter now rests. It was very emotional for all of us to be standing in these places of antiquity that have so much meaning to Christians and Jews alike.

William, from New York writes:
Congratulations on the beatification of Mother Theresa. What lessons does her public service and selfless devotion to those less fortunate mean to the younger generations of American society and how can we teach them to perform acts of loving-kindness?

Jim Towey
Mother Teresa was a great example of how little things done with love can make a big difference in the lives of those who suffer. You are right on the money in saying that we need to make sure that our youth today know about her life and all that she did. She has much to teach us about how the poor have a gift to give us, and that we need them as much as they need us.

Katie, from Indiana writes:
Is the President going to do something for the Pope's 25th Anniversary?

Jim Towey
The President released a beautiful statement honoring the Pope and that is why he also sent our delegation to represent him because he had travel plans already in place to travel with Mrs. Bush to Asia and couldn't go himself. I know the President has an enormous respect for the Pope. To read the statement, click here.

Kevin, from Indianapolis, Indiana writes:
In a sense, is not Pope John Paul II the greatest ally of the United States in that he constantly reinforces our foundational values, as well as those universal concepts and principles from the natural law, which brought the rise of the United States of America to its ascendancy in human rights and pursuit of the common good?

Jim Towey
I think that the Pope and the Vatican may disagree with the U.S. from time to time, but there certainly is a great deal of history that unites our country with the Vatican -- our opposition to communism, the human rights of people everywhere, and other areas of mutual concern.

Jeanne, from Andover, MA writes:
Mr Towey, I saw in your bio that you were Mother Theresa's legal counsel. Could you tell us a little about her and how she got things done. Also, why did Mother Theresa need legal counsel? Good luck leading the Faith-Based Inititives. It sounds like a good idea.

Jim Towey
President Bush always likes to joke when he introduces me by saying that I was Mother Teresa's lawyer and what kind of world do we live in if even Mother Teresa needs a lawyer!

She had a lawyer because many people tried to use her name to raise money and she had prohibited that. She was also opening AIDS homes and homeless shelters and a good bit of work with government was necessary. And we also had to help her nuns with immigration matters as they came to the U.S. to work -- Mother has homes in over 30 American cities, in our poorest neighborhoods, and most of the nuns that she sent were from India.

It was a joy to work with Mother and she taught me a lot about life, love and service. She was a woman of great joy and dedication and gave everything she had for God and neighbor.

John, from Portland Maine writes:
Mr. Towey, Do you think the pope has increased or decreased the power of the Catholic Church worldwide.

Jim Towey
I don't think the Pope is trying to increase the power of the Catholic Church -- I think he tries to spread the gospel and gospel values and to be a shepherd of those entrusted to him, such as Catholics, the poor, and those seeking the truth. I think he has been a great leader and a voice of truth in the world. And a lover of people of all faiths or no faith at all.

grace, from Witchita, Kansas writes:
did you talk to the Pope about the partial-abortion bill that President Bush just signed?

Jim Towey
No, we did not have an opportunity to speak to him. The brief moment that we had did not allow that. But I am sure because of his lifelong defense of life and his views against abortion that he would have been pleased to know that 70 percent of Americans oppose partial-birth abortion and that Congress passed this law.

Mike, from Lansing, MI writes:
Hello Jim: Pope John Paul II is in really bad health now. How much longer do you expect the Pope to live? If he does die before the year is over, who would be the next Pope and how long would it take to elect the new Pope?

Thank you.

Jim Towey
I think this week allowed the Pope to finish things that were very important to him: his 25th anniversary, the beatification of his friend Mother Teresa, and the appointment of 31 new Cardinals. I remember when Mother Teresa was nearing the end of her life. That once she got to Rome to present her successor to the Pope, she felt that was the last important thing she needed to do and in fact she passed away within 10 weeks. I was left wondering whether the Holy Father may be feeling the same thing because he is so weak now and has given everything that he has.

Sean, from Chicago writes:
Mr. towey, i had the pleasure of hearing you speak to my Junior Statesman group in the summer. it was very inspiring. my question is how do you feel about the case to remove the "under god" from the pledge? and also how do you feel about removing "in god we trust" from our currency? thank you

Jim Towey
I think efforts to sanitize the public square and public discourse of any reference to God not only violate the constitution but go against what the founding fathers had in mind when our republic was established. So I think it's crazy.

Jordan, from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
Mr. Towey, What are your thoughts on John Paul II's 25th Anniversary as Pope? If he continues until he dies who do you believe will be the next Pope? I wanted to thank you for your great service to our country and as well as others.

Jim Towey
Thank you Jordan for your encouraging words. As a Catholic, I have a deep love for this Pope. I think history will judge him as one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. Both in terms of his place within the Catholic Church and also in terms of his role in world affairs.

My heart was overflowing with gratitude when I saw this dear, humble man slumped in his seat giving all that he had as shepherd for his sheep.

Jason, from Cleveland, Ohio writes:
With the Pope's ailing health, who is the next qualified person to take the responsibility of being the Pope. I realize that the Pope John Paul will be greatly missed and create an international remembrance of his legacy if his health were to fail and pass away.

Thank You

Jim Towey
Jason, from what I know, the 135 Cardinals who can vote will assemble after this Pope goes home to God. And will begin the process of electing a successor. Bob Woodward and George Weigel have both written good biographies of this Pope that tell what happens when Cardinals get together to elect a Pope, and how John Paul II was elected. It is well worth reading.

I don't know who the next Pope will be but there are many Cardinals who are devout and holy men and so we will have to see.

Thang, from Orange County writes:
Hi Jim, How could the President never invite the Pope go to the White House? How is the relationship between the White House and the Vatican going? As I know the Vatican doesn't have the military. Will the United State protect Vatican if any thing happen? Do we have any agreement beween US and Vatican? Thank you very much.

Jim Towey
The Pope sent a representative to the President earlier this year to discuss Iraq and there is a constant dialogue with the Vatican on many matters of mutual interest. Ambassador Nicholson does a great job in representing the President and our country at the Vatican.

President Bush met with the Pope within the last year when he was in Rome and I have a photo of that meeting in the wall outside my office. I know the President greatly respects the Pope. Popes are invited to visit by US churches, not by the government.

Channing, from Round Rock, TX writes:
How can local churches support our President, troops and elected officials? Is there any information available on your direction?

Jim Towey
They certainly can pray for them and be involved in democracy -- being a citizen is not a spectator sport as the President repeatedly says.

Janice, from Orlando, FL writes:
Hello Mr. Towey, I am a member of several community programs and I was wondering which community initiative program are you most impressed with in our nation? Which ones do you primarily support?

Jim Towey
I have had the privilege to visit dozens of spectacular programs in America that are faith-based or grass roots oriented and so it is hard for me to single out only a couple. There are so many humble people doing hidden work that strengthens America from within by serving our homeless, addicted, and others in need. It is inspirational to see these things in action.

Tom, from Virginia writes:
Did you discuss the President's Faith-Based and Community Initiative with the Pope?

Jim Towey
I did have a meeting with a Cardinal from Colombia who heads up the Vatican's congregation on the family to explore matters of mutual interest and to explain to him the President's Faith Based Initiative. This initiative has great promise in countries other than America because the idea of mobilizing faith-based organizations in the effort to provide social services and address the spiritual poverty of the suffering poor is not simply an American issue. Many countries could better serve their poor, it seems to me, by unleashing their own armies of compassion as the President puts it.

Patsy, from London, England writes:
Dear Mr Towey, You have an interesting profile. Can you please tell me what your day-to-day job involves?

Thank you. Patsy Langley.

Jim Towey
It is a pleasure to work for the President and to work with the good people here in the White House. Most of my time is spent either traveling, working with Congress on the President's legislation or working with the Federal agencies which distribute 67 billion dollars in grants for social services for the poor.

I love my job and would appreciate your prayers so that the Faith-Based Initiative makes meaningful contributions to the lives of our homeless, welfare to work moms and their kids, children of prisoners and others in need.

Jim Towey
I was overwhelmed with how many questions poured in and I'm sorry that I could only answer about a dozen of them during this time we had. Visit us at our web site if you want to learn more about what the President is trying to do. And if you see any of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's order of nuns, please tell them Jim Towey said hi.

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