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Report says Bush sought Vatican help

Page 2 of 2 -- Although Kerry opposes gay marriage, he supports civil unions between homosexuals, which grant legal benefits without conferring the official stamp of marriage.

After Bush met with various Vatican officials and the pope on his June 4 visit, White House officials said that a range of issues had been discussed, without mentioning any specific appeal by the president. But the National Catholic Reporter article, written by a veteran Vatican correspondent, said Bush had met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano and other Vatican officials and in their discussions implied that "he hoped the Vatican would nudge [US bishops] toward more explicit activism" on cultural matters.

The article, quoting anonymous sources, continued: "Other sources in the meeting said that while they could not recall the president's exact words, he did pledge aggressive efforts on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vatican's help in encouraging the US bishops to be more outspoken." The author, John Allen Jr., wrote that Sodano did not respond to the request.

Bush is a Methodist, and although he does not use the term "born-again," he has talked at length about his adult religious reawakening more than a decade ago.

Kerry's relationship with the Catholic Church has occasionally presented difficulties for his campaign. A senior Vatican official issued a statement in April declaring that abortion rights supporters should be denied Communion. A number of churches, including Kerry's in Boston and the one he attended in Pittsburgh yesterday, do not deny him or other abortions rights supporters the Eucharist.

Kerry not only received Communion at St. Benedict the Moor Church, a largely black parish in Pittsburgh's Hill District, but he and his wife listened to a homily focused on the Eucharist. In brief remarks to the parish during a pause to greet visitors, the Massachusetts senator said, "I have the privilege of not just worshiping here this morning, but also visiting Teresa's home."

His wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, has a farm in nearby Fox Chapel, where the couple spent the week.

After Mass, two abortion opponents berated Kerry, his wife, and a priest as they left the church.

"Senator Kerry, you can't support abortion. It's a scandal," yelled one, who identified herself as Janet Cocchi of Mount Lebanon, Pa. "You're not in communion with the Catholic Church." The other protester, who identified herself as Mary Kay Brown of Dorseyville, Pa., said she and Cocchi represented the local chapter of Operation Witness, an antiabortion group founded by Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry.

Neither Kerry nor his wife responded to the taunts, which included Cocchi yelling into the open door of their limousine, "Teresa, how could you kill a baby?"

Kornblut reported from Washington; Johnson reported from Pittsburgh. Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Anne E. Kornblut can be reached at akornblut@globe.com. 

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