In holiday message, Bush urges people to put faith in God

Religious speech comes amid heightened violence in Mideast, abuse scandal

March 31, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush reached out yesterday to Christians and Jews celebrating the Easter and Passover holidays with some of the most religious language he has used in public.

"We feel our reliance on the creator who made us," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We place our sorrows and cares before him, seeking God's mercy. We ask forgiveness for our failures, seeking the renewal he can bring."

Bush's remarks came at the end of a week in which 22 Israelis were killed by a suicide bomber at a Passover Seder and an 18-year-old Palestinian woman blew herself up in a Jerusalem supermarket, killing two others.

At the same time, the Roman Catholic Church remains roiled by a sexual abuse scandal.

"For those who observe Easter and Passover," Bush said, "faith brings confidence that failure is never final, and suffering is temporary, and the pains of the Earth will be overcome. We can be confident, too, that evil may be present, and it may be strong, but it will not prevail."

Bush was raised an Episcopalian and became a Methodist after his marriage.

In 1986, the same year he stopped drinking, he joined a men's Bible study group and said he was recommitting his heart to Jesus.

Evangelicals call Bush's commitment to Jesus a "born-again" experience, although the president does not use that term to describe himself.

Bush often invokes God and faith in his speeches and public remarks but rarely as emphatically as he did yesterday.

As if mindful of that, Bush took care to point out in his remarks, however briefly, that "many good people practice no faith at all."

Bush once again cast the war against terrorism as a struggle between good and evil, overseen by a god who had long ago taken sides.

"In this season, we are assured that history is of moral design," Bush said.

"Justice and cruelty have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. His purposes are often defied but never defeated."

Bush concluded, "I hope that this holy season will bring renewal of faith to those who seek it and comfort to those who need it."

Today, Bush is to attend an Easter sunrise service with his wife and parents near his 1,600-acre ranch here before returning to Washington later in the day.

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