Personal Encounters

President Jimmy Carter - Pope John Paul IIís Visit to the White House, 1979

In October 1979, when Pope John Paul II made his first papal pilgrimage to the United States, he took the country by storm. Describing himself as a “messenger of brotherhood and peace,” the pope traveled to six American cities preaching a message of freedom and human dignity to millions of Americans. Time magazine dubbed him “John Paul, Superstar,” for the enormous crowds that he drew and the wild enthusiasm they showed for him.

On October 6, President Carter welcomed him to the White House where the two men met privately in the Oval Office for an hour. At the start of the meeting, these two deeply religious men—each at the pinnacle of power in their respective spheres—agreed to speak not as diplomats, but as Christian brothers. Eventually, their discussions turned to world affairs. But first, the President asked the Pope how he handled the adulation; John Paul II, who ministered to the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics and stood up to tyrants and dictators around the world with an age-old message of hope, said that he prayed about that more than anything. President Carter’s notes from that historic meeting are shown here.

President Jimmy Carterís notes from his private meeting with Pope John Paul II, October 6, 1979, front

Although his notes are sketchy, they show that the discussion included particular situations in the Philippines, China, Europe, South Korea, and the Middle East. The White House issued a statement that day stating that during the meeting “the Pope and the President agreed that efforts to advance human rights constitute the compelling idea of our times.”

National Archives, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia

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President Jimmy Carterís notes from his private meeting with Pope John Paul II, October 6, 1979, reverse

Although his notes are sketchy, they show that the discussion included particular situations in the Philippines, China, Europe, South Korea, and the Middle East. The White House issued a statement that day stating that during the meeting “the Pope and the President agreed that efforts to advance human rights constitute the compelling idea of our times.”

National Archives, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia

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President Jimmy Carter with Pope John Paul II, photograph by Bill Fitz-Patrick, October 6, 1979

President Jimmy Carter with Pope John Paul II, photograph by Bill Fitz-Patrick, October 6, 1979

Pope John Paul II was the first pope to ever visit the White House.

National Archives, Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia [NLJC-13525.15]

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