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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs