When the President met the Pope

President Obama met Pope Francis this morning at the Vatican. Pool reporters were kept mostly out of earshot, and so the media are relying on official summaries from the White House and the Vatican about what was said.

Here is the Vatican’s statement:


This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial meetings, 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.

In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.

The President spoke with reporters about the meeting at a news conference. USA Today included some of that information in its report.

If you were the pope, what would you have said to the president? If you were the president, what would you have said to the pope?

Vatican Radio had one of the first post meeting stories. It noted that the pope “gave the President a copy of his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, on the joy of the Gospel. ‘You know,’ said President Obama, “I will actually probably read this when I am in the Oval Office and when I am deeply frustrated,” adding, ‘I am sure it will give me strength and calm me down.’ Speaking in English, Pope Francis replied, ‘I hope.'”

The Associated Press also filed a story based on the part of the meeting between the two leaders for which the media was in the room.

David Gibson’s pre-meeting analysis is well worth reading, as he explores whether the pope can help to “‘reset’ frayed ties between Obama and the Catholic bishops?”

The New York Timespre-meeting story takes a close look at the economic views of the two men.

“Pope Francis is challenging the capitalist system to deal with the common good,” said Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby founded by nuns.

“While President Obama talked about the need to build up the middle class, I don’t see any politician here changing the economic structures.”

Even so, White House aides welcome the pope’s broader anti-poverty message at a time when Mr. Obama has been talking about income inequality in the United States. They say the president is eager to discuss these issues with the pope.

The Pew Research Center last year surveyed U. S. Catholics about their views on inequalities in wealth and income, and Tim Townsend analyzes those results here.

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