The White House on Monday announced that Bush and his wife Laura will be at the funeral for the Pope who shared many of the conservative religious beliefs of the US president.
"It is my great honour on behalf of our country to express our gratitude to the almighty for such a man," Bush said in Washington.
Bush was to lead a US delegation which could also include former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton.
The two men met three times during the Bush presidency. The US leader is a devout Methodist and shared many of the Pope's conservative beliefs on social issues such as abortion and stem cell research.
Bush reaffirmed his respect for John Paul II, even acknowledging the Pope's strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
No US president until now has attended the funeral of a pope.
"It is my great honour on behalf of our country to express our gratitude to the almighty for such a man"
There are growing signs meanwhile that US Catholics hope the next pope will take a more liberal position on issues such as abortion, marriage for priests and allowing ordained women.
A USA Today/Gallup/CNN survey found that 63% of Catholics asked at the weekend believe priests should be allowed to marry and 78% believed the Vatican should allow Catholics to use birth control.
Fifty-nine per cent said the church should be less strict on stem cell research and 55% believed women should be allowed to become priests.
Incidentally, major news media around the world have devoted 10 times as many stories to Pope John Paul II's death as they did to the re-election of Bush, according to an analysis released on Monday.
The news of the Pope's death
flooded the media
The Global Language Monitor, which scans the internet for the use of specific words or phrases using Roman characters, found 35,000 new stories on the Pope in the 24 hours after his death on Saturday.
That compares with about 3500 new stories on Bush within a day of his re-election and 1000 new stories on former president Ronald Reagan within a day of his death last year.
The count includes stories at news websites as well as printed stories and transcripts of broadcasts found in electronic repositories such as LexisNexis. About 3000 newspapers and 1000 broadcasters around the world were tracked.