303. Entry From President Johnson’s Daily Diary1

The President and the Pope met for more than an hour in the President’s quarters on the 35th floor.

The Pope arrived at 12:40 pm accompanied by the Papal Secy of State, Cardinal Giovanni Cicognani. They were met at the door of the suite by the President, the Vice President and the Secy of State, Dean Rusk. After an exchange of greetings, the President and the Pope walked into the sitting room for their private conversation, which lasted from 12:42 until 1:28. They were joined in the room by Monsignor Paul Marcinkus, Secy in the office of the Vatican Secretariat of State, who interpreted for the Pope and Mr. Jose DeSeabra of the US Dept of State, who interpreted for the President. The room in which they met and conversed is in English and French decor, with a deep blue rug bordered by a red design. There were arrangements of yellow and white roses and yellow and orange mums. The draperies are [Page 644] in gold and white satin damask. There are four paintings in the room, which remain there, and appropriately, two of them were neopolitan scenes and two were pastoral scenes, one by Francis Wheately and one by William James Muller, entitled “The View At Gillingham.”

The President expressed his appreciation to the Pope for making so long and arduous a trip, at the sacrifice of his own personal convenience, to provide spiritual leadership in the quest for peace.

They reviewed various trouble spots in the world, they discussed specific means of achieving peace through programs of health and education on a world-wide basis; they exchanged comments on the question of race relations. His Holiness expressed his personal appreciation and, also speaking as head of his Church, gratitude for the President’s and this nation’s progress in the field of civil rights. The President said all the strong leaders of and supporters of justice in this country were quite heartened by the recent appointment of a Negro Bishop in this country.

The President discussed his visit in 1962 with Pope John XXIII.2 He told His Holiness of the significance that visit had had for him in making him realize, in a very difficult and distressed period, that peace is possible.

They discussed the UN at some length. The President said that it is his opinion that the Pope’s visit constituted a very strong expression of support for what the UN can accomplish. The President noted the recent resurgence of strength on the part of the United Nations, and said that at this particular time this unusual and unprecedented visit by the Pontiff will be a significant milestone, not only in the life of the United Nations, but in the overriding and overall quest for peace on the part of all nations.

They discussed the UN as a place where men can meet to resolve their differences. They talked at some length on the programs of the US Govt and the interest of the Church in deep and continuing effort to get at the roots of poverty, illiteracy and disease. The President discussed the Alliance for Progress in that regard, and its objectives in Latin America. His Holiness pointed out that the Church, too, in Latin America was committed to the cause of justice and progress and social improvement.

It was at this point that His Holiness pointed out to the President his personal and his Church’s regard for the way in which the President and this gov’t were not simply talking about ways of improving [Page 645] the lot of people, but were actually in a vigorous and forceful way moving ahead to achieve these objectives.

The President mentioned at this point in the discussion on education that he was aware of the Church’s great interest in education, not only in a general way but in a personal way, through Luci’s studies at Georgetown in Washington. The President said “I am thoroughly familiar with her education. She keeps me informed.”

The Pope spoke very eloquently on this point and said that the Church’s interest and the interest of the American people in improving the lot of people everywhere, not only spiritually but physically, was indeed a common objective. Again, they reviewed the significance of this visit, the historic nature of it. The President said that he was stimulated and inspired by the visit of the Pope. They underscored consistently throughout their conversation the larger topic of peace and what both Church and State can do to achieve this objective. The Pres. thanked His Holiness for coming. The Pope responded by saying that he was very grateful to the President for making possible this visit today in New York. The Pope said that he hoped the President would continue with all of the optimism and energy at his command to work for peace. Pope said—when men of the spirit look to men of public affairs for guidance, it is men like the President who serve the world, not only with ideas but with action.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, President’s Daily Diary, October 4, 1965. No classification marking. A note on the diary entry reads: “Info fm briefing of Oct 4-#130-A.” The meeting was held in Suite 35A of the Waldorf Astoria. The discussion is also reported in Joseph Califano, The Triumph and Tragedy of Lyndon B. Johnson (New York, 1991), p. 72.
  2. Vice President Johnson visited Rome September 5, 1962, at the conclusion of a Middle East trip.