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Neil Bush, Ratzinger co-founders

Posted in the database on Thursday, April 21st, 2005 @ 18:28:16 MST (1432 views)
by Knut Royce and Tom Brune    Newsday.com  

Untitled Document WASHINGTON -- Neil Bush, the president's controversial younger brother, six years ago joined the cardinal who this week became Pope Benedict XVI as a founding board member of a little known Swiss ecumenical foundation.

The charter members of the board were all well-known international religious figures, except for Bush and his close friend and business partner, Jamal Daniel, whose family has extensive holdings in the United States and Switzerland, public records show.

The Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1999 to promote ecumenical understanding and publish original religious texts, said a foundation official.

Besides then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, founding board members included Rene-Samuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France; Jordan's Prince Hassan, a Muslim dedicated to religious dialogue; the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, another prominent Muslim; Olivier Fatio, director of the Institute of the History of the Reformation; and foundation president Metropolitan Damaskinos, a Greek Orthodox leader.

Gary Vachicouras, a theologian and foundation official in Geneva, would not explain in a telephone interview yesterday why Bush, who has no clear public connection to religious causes, was on the first board.

"He was interested at that particular time," said Vachicouras of Bush. But like some other initial board members, Bush is no longer involved, Vachicouras said. Ratzinger also left a few years ago and was replaced by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who is responsible for ecumenical relations for the Vatican, said Vachicouras.

Still active is Daniel, a Syrian American who has family active in the Orthodox Church in Geneva, said Vachicouras. "This is an Orthodox lay person," he said.

Neither Bush, now president of the educational software company Ignite! Learning, based in Austin, Texas, nor Daniel returned calls for comment.

In his highly publicized divorce last year, Bush revealed he and Daniel are co-chairs of Texas-based Crest Investment Co., which pays him $60,000 a year for consulting. Recently, Crest Investment officials used Bush's name as a reference in cutting an exclusive deal with Texas officials on construction of a liquid natural gas storage facility that will guarantee Crest payments of at least $2 million a year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In the divorce proceedings, Bush also revealed that while he was in a hotel in Asia, women on at least three occasions came into his room and had sex with him. Daniel hosted Bush's second wedding at his home.

Daniel reportedly became acquainted with Bush in 1991, the year the federal Office of Thrift Supervision sanctioned Bush for having "multiple conflicts of interest" in his role as a director of Silverado Savings and Loan, a Colorado thrift whose failure cost taxpayers $1.3 billion. Bush paid $50,000 in a settlement.

The foundation, based at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Geneva, is listed by Dun & Bradstreet business credit reports as a management trust for purposes other than education, religion, charity or research. But Vachicouras said the designation must be a mistake of translation to English because the foundation is a private nonprofit established under Swiss law. He said the foundation is being "relaunched" on its mission to publish the original text of the Bible's Old Testament in Hebrew, its New Testament in Greek and the Quran in Arabic.

Fatio, who left the board three years ago, said the foundation "never had any money." Vachicouras declined to discuss finances.

He said, "We keep a low profile because that makes it easier to get work done."



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