Today in Catholic History – Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to visit the White House

On 6 October 1979, Pope John Paul became the first pope to visit the White House when he met with President Jimmy Carter. The Pope and President met privately for about an hour where they discussed the importance of human rights as the “compelling idea of our times”.

Pope John Paul II and President Carter discussed many issues and President Carter particularly wanted the pope to speak about the situation in Israel. For his part, Pope John Paul II asked the president to work to safeguard human rights, dignity and peace in the world. Pope John Paul II gave a silver sculpture with the words “Peace Unto Thee” to the president but a parchment copy of his first encyclical letter to the President’s mother, Lillian.

Photo of the meeting between President Carter and Pope John Paul II and President Carter’s notes about the meeting.

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