'Yes sir,' Bush says to His Holiness in Vatican gaffe
Vatican City: US President George W. Bush drew gasps at the Vatican on Saturday by referring to Pope Benedict XVI as "sir" instead of the expected "His Holiness," pool reporters said.
They could clearly hear the US leader say "Yes, sir" when the pope asked him if he was going to meet with officials of the lay Catholic Sant'Egidio community at the US embassy later during his visit.
A handful of pool reporters were on hand as Benedict greeted Bush at the door of his private library ahead of a private audience of about half an hour.
On his way to see the 80-year-old pontiff, the US leader apparently recognised someone he knew, and could be heard greeting the person with a casual "How ya doin'?"
The pool reporters also noted Bush's relaxed posture, crossing his legs "Texan style" while facing the pope across his desk in the private study of the apostolic palace.
Bush told the pontiff, in what was their first meeting, that he believed the Group of Eight summit in Germany had been a success, and made a conspiratorial quip in front of the media about his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"It's good to be with you sir," Bush said as he sat before the Pontiff's private desk in the Vatican. Both men appeared relaxed, smiling and sometimes laughing.
The Pope Benedict told Bush that the Vatican would like a "regional and negotiated" solution to Middle East conflicts, as anti-US protesters converged on Rome.
When the Pope mentioned Bush had come from the world powers' summit, Bush said: "I did - your old country - and it was successful ... A lot of different opinions, but it was good."
Asked if his dialogue with Putin - closely watched because of a number of sharp disagreements between Russia and the West - had been good, Bush responded with a smile as reporters were being ushered out of the room.
"I'll tell you in a minute," he said.
Bush said his meeting with the pope, in which the president stressed his record in fighting AIDS and supporting other humanitarian causes, was a "moving experience."
"I was talking to a very smart, loving man," Bush said.