US President George W Bush juggled sports, strife and diplomacy today on his whirlwind Olympic adventure.
In a clear reference to China's tight control of churches, Bush emerged from a church service saying no country should "fear the influence" of religious freedom. Switching from leader to Olympics fan, Bush watched as Michael Phelps won the gold in the 400-meter individual medley.
He has been monitoring the military standoff between Russia and Georgia, a former Soviet state. And in an upcoming meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Bush promised to continue pushing China to let its people speak and pray freely without harassment. China says that is a matter it can handle without outside interference.
Bush's comments after worshipping with first lady Laura Bush came with added punch as he delivered them in the heart of the Chinese capital during Beijing's Olympic spotlight.
"Laura and I just had the great joy and privilege of worshipping here in Beijing, China," he said as parishioners exited to "Onward Christian Soldiers." "You know, it just goes to show that God is universal, and God is love, and no state, man or woman should fear the influence of loving religion."
China allows worship only in officially approved churches such as the one Bush visited with his wife, so millions of people pray privately in house churches to avoid detection. The Chinese government has bristled at Bush's prodding as pointless meddling.
Bush spoke of the great joy he felt while worshipping in the church, where a choir of boys and girls wearing white shirts and Jesus fish pins performed "Amazing Grace" in English and Chinese.