News / Europe

Obama Meets Pope Francis

Obama Meets Pope Francis for First Timei
X
Luis Ramirez
March 27, 2014 11:49 PM
President Obama met Pope Francis for the first time Thursday. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez is traveling with the president and has this report from the Vatican.
Luis Ramirez
— President Barack Obama and Pope Francis have met for the first time at the Vatican.
 
Obama sat down with the pope in the Vatican's Papal Library for a nearly one-hour conversation that began in a warm atmosphere, with Obama saying he is a great admirer of the pontiff.  
 
The president gave the pope a box of fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House garden.  The pope gave the president a small book, a papal document titled The Joy of the Gospel, which the president said he will turn to for strength.

Later, at a news conference with Italy's Prime Minister, Obama spoke of his meeting with the pontiff.

“My day started with the great honor of meeting with his holiness, Pope Francis, and like people around the world, I have been incredibly moved by his compassion, his message of inclusion," he said. "I was grateful to have the opportunity to speak with him about the responsibilities we all share for the least of the poor, the excluded."
 
The meeting was a chance for Obama to highlight the areas where they agree, and to bridge relations strained by differences on a wide range of views, and improve his image among some Catholic American voters who see the administration as hostile to the church's teachings.  
 
  • U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Francis, in Vatican City, March 27, 2014. 
  • Pope Francis talks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a private audience in Vatican City, March 27, 2014. 
  • U.S. President Barack Obama called himself a "great admirer" of Pope Francis as he sat down with the pontiff at the Vatican, March 27, 2014.
  • Pope Francis exchanges gifts with U.S. President Barack Obama during a private audience at Vatican City, March 27, 2014. 

Relations were damaged by the administration's efforts to force religious institutions and observant Catholics to pay for coverage of contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs, and female sterilization under the new U.S. healthcare law - in violation of church teachings against abortion and contraception.
 
Observant Catholics said the law trampled on their religious freedom.

American bishops and followers who in some cases had supported the health care law condemned the requirements and joined in lawsuits to block its implementation.

“There were people who were, up until then, willing to have an open mind about the administration's attitude," said Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a prominent Catholic theologian and commentator. "And after this, there was the recognition, an opinion began to enter into Catholic circles that are not political, nonetheless began to be felt politically and that was obviously not the desire of the administration.  So I would say the situation worsened the relations between the two."
 
Obama went into Thursday's meeting expecting to keep the conversation to areas where the two men agree.  Pope Francis has spoken frequently against world poverty and inequality. Obama has called for bridging the gap between rich and poor and has led efforts to raise the minimum wage in the United States.

Obama said the conversation was largely on these topics, but without going into detail he indicated the pope did bring up their differences.

“His Holiness and the Vatican made clear their position on a range of issues," he said. "Some of them I differ with.  Most I heartily agree with."

They also spoke about immigration, and the president said the pope raised concerns about the plight of Christians who are suffering persecution in the Middle East.

Francis was elected a year ago, surprising many with his informal style and focus on the poor, attracting non-observant Catholics and those who otherwise saw themselves having little in common with the Church and its teachings especially on issues like abortion, contraception, and homosexual unions.  
 
The meeting with Obama is seen as perhaps a new chapter in what has been an uneasy relationship.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
March 27, 2014 11:41 PM
I don’t think the US’ law trampled on catholic religious freedom. abortion and contraception, and so on are nundane affairs,administrated by governments.2000 years ago,Jesus told us:Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,and to God the things that are God’s.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid