Smyre impressed by Pope's reception

Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, attended the welcoming ceremony at the White House for Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

An enthralled South Lawn crowd of more than 13,500 sang ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ to Pope Benedict XVI — twice — and President Bush said the first papal White House visit in 29 years was a reminder for Americans to ‘‘distinguish between simple right and wrong.’’

The pontiff turned 81 Wednesday, the first full day of his first trip to the United States as leader of the world’s Roman Catholics.

“To hear him talk about compassion and give an emotional plea for peace, it was a breath of fresh air,” Smyre said.

“It was a great outpouring of his welcome to America.”

Over the past few months Smyre has met with members of Congress on several pieces of legislation and, as President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, is heading up the organization’s first official visit to Capitol Hill to lobby for decreasing juvenile delinquency and help in solving the nation’s mortgage crisis.