WASHINGTON – As President Bush prepares to lead the American delegation to the funeral for Pope John Paul II (search), he paid tribute Monday to the late pontiff, saying he "appreciated" the talks the two men had about the war in Iraq.
"Of course he was a man of peace, and he didn't like war," Bush said after meeting with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (search) in the Oval Office. "And I fully understood that, and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject."
Asked how much consideration the White House gave to the pope's opposition to the war in Iraq, Bush said the two respected John Paul II's perspective, even if they didn't agree on everything.
He also said the pope would leave a lasting legacy.
"He will show people that one man can make a difference in people's lives. He's a courageous person. He's a moral person. He was a godly person. And he's had huge influence not only amongst, for example, young people in America, but around the world. One of his great legacies will be the influence he had on the young. He spoke to the poor. He spoke to morality," Bush said.
The president also recollected a meeting with the pope at the pontiff's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, on July 23, 2001. It was the first of three meetings between the two.
"I can remember him taking us out on the balcony of this fabulous palace overlooking a magnificent lake and talking about his views of the world," Bush said. "It was a moment I'll never forget during my presidency."
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Bushes will leave Wednesday for the Friday funeral. He said with all the countries planning to send high-level representatives to the funeral, the United States will keep its delegation small, but will include former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush.
President Bush "will hold a bilat or two" while on the ground in Italy on Thursday. Afterward, he will return to his previously scheduled trip to Crawford, Texas.
As a result of his schedule, the president will no longer attend the annual Radio-Television Correspondents' Association Dinner on Wednesday night nor will he travel to South Carolina on Thursday for a Social Security address at the State House. His "War on Terror" speech scheduled for this Friday to troops at Fort Hood has been rescheduled for next week.
Bush will still host Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) at his Texas ranch next Monday, McClellan said.
FOX News' James Rosen and Trish Turner contributed to this report.