Cardinal notes that services brought enemies together
VATICAN CITY -- An American cardinal said Friday the unprecedented gathering of foreign delegates and religious leaders in Rome to mourn Pope John Paul II was one of the pontiff's final gifts to the world.
"Among the delegations were people who don't talk to each other, maybe fight with each other, but they were there because he drew them there," Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said after the service. McCarrick is one of 11 American cardinals who will participate in the papal election, set to begin April 18.
It was a delicate atmosphere of forced smiles and slight acknowledgments as delegates from more than 80 countries, some of them not on speaking terms, sat in close proximity during the pontiff's three-hour, outdoor funeral Mass.
President Bush, who has referred to Iran as part of an "axis of evil" and whose administration is seeking to stem Tehran's nuclear program, sat not too far from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. "Maybe today will make us hope of a future of peace, not of conflict and hatred," Khatami said in an interview in Corriere della Sera newspaper.
Israeli President Moshe Katsav said that, out of politeness, he shook hands with archenemies Khatami and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
There were no handshakes between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe had accused Blair of meddling in African affairs and of attempting to derail Mugabe's recent re-election. Mugabe, however, did reach over and shake the hand of Prince Charles, which angered European politicians who have accused Zimbabwe's government of corruption and brutality.