WASHINGTON - President Bush has invited his father and former President Bill Clinton to accompany him and First Lady Laura Bush to the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also will be part of the small official U.S. delegation, but former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford will not.
A spokesman at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Jon Moore, said Mr. Carter told the White House that he wanted to attend the funeral.
Upon learning that the Vatican was limiting the size of U.S. delegation and that "there were also others who were eager to attend," Mr. Carter, 80, was "quite willing" to withdraw his request, Mr. Moore said.
Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, said: "It was his decision to make. We would have been more than happy to have him be part of the delegation."
Mr. Ford, who lives in Palm Springs, Calif., is 91 and no longer travels extensively.
Meanwhile, it was announced that the congressional delegation to the funeral will include Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio).
Fourteen senators and about two dozen House members will attend.
Pope John Paul II was the first pope to visit the White House when Mr. Carter invited him in 1979.
The next year Mr. Carter, a Baptist, went to the Vatican.
Mr. Clinton, 58, who is recovering from complications from heart bypass surgery last year, was cleared by his doctors to leave today for Rome.
Mr. Clinton, a Southern Baptist, was the first president to personally tell the Pope that he thought the Vatican's position on abortion was wrong and that he would continue to do what he could to make abortion rare but safe and legal.
The former president also pledged to promote contraception.
Mr. Clinton and the late Pontiff met at the Denver airport in 1993, where the Pope spoke to thousands of young people.
There the Pope spoke of his opposition to abortion.
After they met a second time, in the Pope's library in the Vatican in 1994, Mr. Clinton acknowledged their differences.
The two leaders did not agree on abortion, contraception, the death penalty, Cuba, Iraq, immigration, sex without marriage, gay rights, and other issues.
The Pope's spokesmen said they did agree that peace in the Middle East must be pursued and that Bosnia, Haiti, and North Korea were worrisome problems.
The two men next met in Newark, N.J., in October 1995, where the Pope urged Mr. Clinton to end the economic embargo against Cuba.
Instead, Mr. Clinton toughened the U.S. policy.
Not until a year after the Pope's January, 1998, visit to Havana did Mr. Clinton modify the U.S. position to permit more money and food be sent to Cuba.
During the Pope's trip to Cuba, details of the Monica Lewinsky scandal began to emerge.
When Mr. Clinton and the Pope met for a fourth time, in 1999, Mr. Clinton was on trial in the Senate on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury stemming from his relationship with Miss Lewinsky, a former White House intern.
The Pope did not speak publicly about the scandal, although he raised some eyebrows when he commented in Mexico about the dangers of bearing false witness.
In 1999, the Pope was critical of American bombing raids in Iraq.
Former President George H.W. Bush, an Episcopalian, and the Pope generally agreed on most issues.
Mr. Bush, 80, visited the Pope twice at the Vatican.
The current President Bush had public disagreements with the Pope over the death penalty, the treatment of Arab prisoners, and the war in Iraq.
When Mr. Bush gave the Pope the Medal of Freedom in Italy last year, the Pope read a long statement about his opposition to the war in Iraq.
But Mr. Bush still said that being in the Pope's presence was an "awesome experience."
Many Catholic politicians in Washington and in the administration wanted to go to Rome for the funeral, but the White House said that because of the large number of official delegations from other countries, the U.S. group had to be kept small.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.38.89037 -77.03196