For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 2, 2005
Press Gaggle to the Pool by Scott McClellan
4:18 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. The President heard about the news report shortly after the Pope had passed away. He was told by someone on the residence staff. He was over in the residence at the time. And then Andy Card called him shortly -- probably just before 3:00 p.m. this afternoon to inform him that it had been confirmed the Pope had passed away.
Q The Vatican had informed the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, our embassy had been in touch with the Vatican and that's how we got confirmation. The President has signed a presidential directive -- we're putting this out momentarily -- all federal government offices will fly their flags at half-staff from today until the day of his interment.
Other than that -- I mean, I did ask the President about any personal thoughts, and he reflected on how he had gotten to know His Holiness. He had met him on three occasions, if you'll recall, 2001, 2002, and then last year in 2004 when he also presented him the Medal of Freedom. And the President remarked about what a great moral leader His Holiness was and he said -- this is a quote -- "It shows the courage of one person can help change history." The President had the highest respect and admiration for the Holy Father and he was honored to have known him.
Q Will he be going over -- any plans --
MR. McCLELLAN: There's a Mass going on at the Vatican right now and I'm sure that we will -- the Vatican will be in contact with us. And so it's not the time to get into any of those issues until --
Q -- for planning purposes?
MR. McCLELLAN: No -- until we hear more from the Vatican.
Q About what?
MR. McCLELLAN: I imagine the Vatican will be communicating with us and we will be talking with them about the delegation at that point. So it will probably be -- I imagine it will be tomorrow when the Vatican will communicate with us, and then we will have more to say at that point.
Q What do you expect them to tell you, the date of the funeral or what sort of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I expect them to be in communication with us tomorrow about the final arrangements and we'll be in touch with them about the delegation at that point.
Q So you're awaiting the final arrangements before announcing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, before announcing the delegation.
Q Would part of it be contingent on what date it's happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: No --
Q In other words, if he has other plans or --
MR. McCLELLAN: The delegation -- there will be a delegation going, but --
Q You have the right to decide --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's just not appropriate until the Vatican has been in communication with us about the funeral arrangements to talk about the delegation.
Q If you already know who it is, why can't you tell us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because -- I mean, for the reasons I just stated.
Q We can speculate about it, though --
MR. McCLELLAN: For the reasons I just stated.
Q Okay. Okay.
Q On a scale from one to ten, how likely is it that he will go?
MR. McCLELLAN: You all can keep asking, but I think I've answered the question. Leave it where I did for today.
Q What about tomorrow? Will the President go to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Today is a time of mourning.
Q Will the President go to St. Matthew's tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted on his schedule, but the travel pool is being asked to stick around.
Q Today or tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: For now.
Q Is he going to visit the Papal Nuncio today or tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted.
Q What about Sharon? What's the schedule for Sharon?
MR. McCLELLAN: There will be time after today to talk about the President's schedule.
Q Did the President meet him before he took office? Did he ever meet him with his father, for example?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q Is he the first -- if he does go to the funeral, will he be the first sitting President to attend a papal funeral, do you know?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we'll talk about all of this --
Q I'm not asking --
Q Well, I've seen news reports from other networks who have reported that. I don't think it's my place to get into that until -- at this time.
Q I just want to clarify -- you're saying the travel pool should stick around today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we're just asking the travel pool to stick around for now.
Q You're not waiting for an invitation as part of protocol -- is that one of the reasons you're waiting to talk about a delegation? Is there protocol involved?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Yes. The Vatican, as I pointed out and as you see on the TV screens, there's a Mass going on right now. And I imagine they will be in communication with people tomorrow about any funeral arrangements.
Q Will that be relayed through the embassy to here?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect it would come through the embassy.
Q And how will you guys announce it?
MR. McCLELLAN: We will, in due course, announce the delegation.
Q Can you go back to how the communication took place? Somebody in our embassy in the Vatican communicated to Card? Is that how -- can you go back --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me -- I will double-check, but our embassy got confirmation through the Vatican. I'll double-check how exactly that -- what channels that came through.
Q During the course of the past couple of days, when you all have told us he's been getting regular updates on the Pope's condition, was he getting information different than what the Vatican was announcing publicly?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was aware of what they were announcing publicly, that's what he --
Q Was he getting anything additional to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: We were obviously in close contact with the Vatican during the last few days, and we were aware of the developments just like you all were.
Q The President wasn't watching TV and watching the news reports at the time of the Pope's death?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. He was told about the news report very soon after they aired.
Q And today, Scott, will you guys -- let's say, nothing more happens today, will there be some sort of lid? I mean, how will we -- just process-wise --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we will let you know when there's a lid. We'll do that.
Q Would it be in, like, late this evening or --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't expect it will be too late this evening.
END 4:22 P.M. EST