President Bush says China should grant its people greater religious freedoms. So, he opened his day in Beijing by going to church.
A choir in white and red silk robes sang the hymn, 'Ode to Joy' as the president and Mrs. Bush left Gangwashi Church. It is one of five authorized protestant churches in the capital, and remains under control of China's Communist Party.
But White House officials say it is a real church, where real people of faith really do worship. They say it is important for the Chinese people to see that expressing faith is a good thing for a healthy and mature society.
President Bush thanked Pastor Du Fengying for her sermon, based on a passage from Corinthians, that love is tolerance, trust and perseverance. Mr. Bush told her the spirit of the Lord is strong within her church.
"You know, it wasn't all that long ago that people were not allowed to worship openly in this society," he said. "My hope is that the government of China will not fear Christians who gather to worship openly. A healthy society is a society that welcomes all faiths, and gives people a chance to express themselves through worship with the Almighty."
President Bush signed the church guest book, asking God to bless the Christians in China. Printing bibles is still illegal here, and President Bush is calling on the government to allow its people to worship, without state control, and print bibles and other sacred texts, without fear of punishment.
Following a meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Mr. Bush says he told Chinese President Hu Jintao that a society, which recognizes religious freedoms is a society, which will recognize political freedoms, as well.
"I thought it would be wise for the Chinese government to invite the Dalai Lama, so he can tell them exactly what he told me in the White House the other day, that he has no desire for an independent Tibet," he said. "I talked about the Catholic Church, the need for this government to invite leaders from the Vatican to come and discuss religious freedoms in China. So, we discussed a lot of areas of concern about the condition of the dissidents and people who want to express themselves."
China reportedly detained or put under house arrest at least a dozen dissidents ahead of the president's visit, something Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington will raise, in her words, quite vociferously with the Chinese government.