From the Vatican, where President Obama has arrived for his planned visit with Pope Francis:
The American president said, upon meeting the Holy Father,
“Thank you so much for seeing me, I’m a great admirer. I bring greetings from my country.
In an interview before the visit with the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, President Obama said of the Pope,
“Given his great moral authority, when the pope speaks it carries enormous weight. He can cause people around to the world to stop and perhaps rethink old attitudes and begin treating one another with more decency and compassion.”
There is no report yet as to what else the two world leaders may have talked about. After Pope Francis’ very frank, impassioned remarks to members of the Mafia a week ago (that “repent or go to hell” speech), I’m expecting him to speak frankly about the concerns which Catholics have regarding Obama’s anti-life policies.
But first, the easy stuff: As an ice-breaker, Pope Francis can embrace the President’s goals of immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, and fighting inequality.
Then, I hope the pontiff has some tough questions for the prez. Questions about this Administration’s embrace of abortion, about so-called Affordable Health Care and the government’s entrenchment on the issue of mandatory coverage for birth control. Questions about the meaning of religious freedom in a nation bound by the Constitution.
I’m sure there will be some reports coming out of Rome later today. Watch this space!
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UPDATE: Sure enough, the Vatican Information Service has just released a summary of the items discussed by the Pope and the President. This is a more reliable source than the media talking heads who will be speaking about this later today.
Here is the Vatican’s statement, released just a few minutes ago:
THE POPE RECEIVES PRESIDENT OBAMA: RESPECT FOR HUMANITARIAN AND INTERNATIONAL LAW IN AREAS OF CONFLICT
Vatican City, 27 March 2014 (VIS) – This morning Barack H. Obama, president of the United States of America, was received in audience by Pope Francis, after which he met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
During the cordial meeting, views were exchanged on some current international themes and hope was expressed that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.
In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, the Parties discussed questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the Parties stated their common commitment to the eradication of human trafficking throughout the world.