Pope to host Bush in unusual Vatican setting

VATICAN CITY Mon Jun 9, 2008 1:57pm BST

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during the Angelus prayer in St Peter's square at the Vatican June 8, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful during the Angelus prayer in St Peter's square at the Vatican June 8, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will unusually host talks with U.S. President George W. Bush in a restored medieval tower on Friday, to repay him for a warm reception at the White House, the Vatican said.

The pope usually receives heads of state in his private study in the Apostolic Palace, overlooking St Peter's Square.

But Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the change was to repay Bush for "the cordiality of the meeting at the White House" when the pope visited the United States in April.

St. John's Tower is a round structure on a hilltop inside the Vatican gardens that is sometimes used as a residence for important guests.

After their private talks, Bush and the pope will stroll in the gardens to see a statue of the Madonna.

The late Pope John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963, restored the tower as a place where he could work in peace.

Bush will be in Rome from Wednesday to Friday as part of a trip to Slovenia, Germany, Italy, France and Britain.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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