U.S. says 'Happy Birthday' to pope

April 16, 2008 at 12:19 PM
1 of 6
| License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- A 21-gun salute rumbled and a crush of well-wishers crowded the White House lawn Wednesday as U.S. President George Bush officially greeted Pope Benedict XVI.

Spontaneous renditions of "Happy Birthday" erupted among a South Lawn crowd estimated between 9,000 and 12,000 to mark the pontiff's 81st birthday.

Accompanied only by a harp, soprano Kathleen Battle sang "The Lord's Prayer."

Bush said Pope Benedict would find the U.S. "a nation of prayer."

The president said "Millions were praying for your visit and millions look forward to praying with you this week."

The pope said the United Sates "traditionally has shown herself as generous in meeting human need."

Catholics in America, he said, "have made and continue to make an excellent contribution" to society.

After the public ceremony ended, the pope and the president exited to the White House, emerging from the Blue Room balcony.

An "official" version of "Happy Birthday" was played and sung.

After the ceremony, Pope Benedict traveled -- slowly amid the cheering throngs -- to the Vatican embassy via the custom-made, bullet-proof "pope-mobile."

Related UPI Stories
Latest Headlines
Trending Stories
5 Reasons why Denver Broncos won't be repeat champions
U.N. human rights report: Syria's Assad guilty of 'inhuman' crimes, gruesome torture and deaths
Islamic State crucifies teen in Syria
Early human ancestor didn't have a nutcracker jaw
Elton John rides with James Corden for Carpool Karaoke