President Lyndon Johnson, returning from the funeral of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, arrived in Rome Saturday Evening (23 December) for a talk with Pope Paul VI.
President Lyndon Johnson, returning from the funeral of Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt, arrived in Rome Saturday Evening (23 December) for a talk with Pope Paul VI. The subject was peace in Viet Nam.
Mr. Johnson's plane landed at 7 p.m. local time at Ciampino Airport, a military field near the Appian way. The president and his party flew in two helicopters from there to Castel Porziano. a walled-off hunting presereve that serves as summer resident for Italian President Giuseppe Saragat.
Mr. Johnson conferred for about 40 minutes with President Saragat, Premier Aldo Moro and Foreign Minister Amintore Fanfani.
Then Mr. Johnson flew to Rome and two helicopters landed in the Vatican Gardens at 8:50 p.m.
The Pope's black limousine took the President to the floodlit Court of Saint Damas and from there he took an elevator to the papal apartments on the fourth floor of the Vatican Palace. As he went into see the Pope, Mr. Johnson was cheered by about 100 United States seminarians who are studying at the North American College in Rome. He shook hands with some of them.
The Pope, wearing white robes, met his visitor at the door of his private library and escorted him inside for their private talks.
Afterwards, the Presidential Party returned to Ciapino Airport and Air Force One, the President's plane, left for Washington at 11:05 p.m.
While the Pope and the President were meeting, about 2,000 young Italians followed the call of the Italian Communist Party to demonstrate in the centre of Rome against Mr. Johnson and the war in Viet Nam. The chanted anti-American slogans but the demonstration failed to succeed. Rome police blocked the demonstrators from the United States Embassy.
In his Christmas message, released before the President's visit, Pope Paul has emphasised his deep concern about peace. He repeated his offer to mediate the Viet Nam conflict, and called for a suspension of the American bombing there and for world peace negotiations.
After their 60 minute talk, President Johnson said he and the Pope had discussed various ways to achieve peace. He said the United States is willing to stop bombing under certain conditions.