President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon meet with Pope Paul VI on September 29, 1970.
When the positions of the supreme Pontiff were so often met by the opportunistic ardor of both Republicans and Democrats, President Nixon sought audience with the Pope not as a politician but as a world leader in search of peace.
On March 2, 1969, President Nixon concluded his inaugural European trip with a private audience with Pope Paul VI. A year and a half later, on September 29, 1970 the President made his second and final presidential visit to the Vatican as part of another critical European excursion. Declassified National Security Council documents reveal the President’s Vatican policy for both trips.
Presidential trip booklets were prepared by the National Security Council for the President to review upon embarkation. The materials contained detailed background on the various political and diplomatic leaders scheduled for the President to meet. They also contained essential talking points for each meeting, reflecting the administration’s positions on foreign and economic affairs. Because the Pope was generally more interested in the prospects of fostering peace among the current conflict ridden territories, the talking points and discussions with Pope Paul VI reflect these topics.
Below are original talking points prepared for the President in lieu of his first meeting with Pope Paul VI.
Highlighted are the conflicts in the Middle East, Vietnam, and Biafra of Nigeria. The Pope’s humanitarian missions are discussed as well as Papal efforts to curb violence in the Middle East, particularly in areas with Christian populations. President Nixon was advised to discuss his efforts in securing peace in these conflict regions. In addition to talking points, the President was provided with an objectives analysis.
Below is an analysis of Vatican objectives as they compared to U.S. objectives, as well as a history of U.S. and Vatican relations.
Unfortunately, a memorandum of conversation for this meeting could not be found. However, one was available in the archives recording President Nixon’s second meeting with the Pope. In this particular meeting, they discussed some similar points covered in the first, but further deliberated on the issues of narcotics and Latin America. The memorandum of conversation can be read below.
President Nixon believed a strong relationship with the Pope was of the highest importance. When many in the world looked to the Pope in search of moral guidance and resolve, it was critical during those virulent and turbulent times that the President confirm America’s faith in the supreme Pontiff. When peace appeared a foggy aspiration both at home and abroad, the faith in and exuded by the Pope inspired the spirit of Americans and of all around the world.
Your words have inspired us. The fact that we have your prayers will sustain us in the years ahead. We are confident that as we move forward, we shall be able to find those answers that will bring the world to which you have dedicated your life, and that world will be one of peace, and also one of freedom and justice for all people.