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Pope Francis hosts President Obama for 'cordial' talkscomment (0)

March 27, 2014

Pope Francis met with President Barack Obama for the first time March 27 in a meeting heavy in symbolism that reportedly touched on some hot-button disputes between the White House and the U.S. Catholic bishops.

The highly touted 52-minute meeting was friendly and cordial, with polite niceties exchanged — Obama told Francis he was “a great admirer” of his papacy — before the formal session got underway. According to White House press reports, the overall mood before the meeting was lighthearted, with Obama injecting some humor before the two men began their private discussions.

“His Holiness is probably the only person in the world who has to put up with more protocol,” the president said.

According to an official statement from the Vatican about the “cordial” talks, “views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved,” as well as combating human trafficking.

The statement also said the two men discussed immigration reform and “the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection” among American Catholics — a veiled reference to Obama’s support of abortion rights and his strained relations with the American hierarchy over the administration’s contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which went to the Supreme Court on March 25.

Observers said each leader appeared genuinely pleased to meet the other. “There was a sincerity in the air,” said the Rev. Alistair Sear, a retired church historian. “It was clear this was much more than a photo opportunity.”

It is Obama’s second visit to Italy and second meeting with a pontiff; the president met retired Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.


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