World News

Obama Meets with Pope, Italian Officials

U.S. President Barack Obama has met for the first time with Pope Francis at the Vatican, in a meeting the White House said would focus on the two leaders' "shared commitment" to fighting "growing inequality."

Mr. Obama, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, met the pope and other Vatican officials. Afterward, the president told reporters the meetings focused on the marginalization of the poor, and the challenges of conflict around the world.

The Vatican released a statement saying the two men had discussed "questions of particular relevance" to the Catholic Church in the United States, including the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life, and conscientious objection.

The new U.S. health care law, the Affordable Care Act, has stirred controversy by mandating coverage for contraception, which runs counter to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Later in the day, Mr. Obama met with Italian government officials and held a joint news conference with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Both men emphasized the need to cooperate on economic and defense issues, and on the crisis in Ukraine. The conflict between Ukraine and Russia has been a major focus on most of the stops of Mr. Obama's European tour.

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