Pope Francis and President Barack Obama had their first meeting today at the Vatican, where the pope and the president discussed several subjects of relevance to the Catholic Church in the United States.
Among the topics reportedly discussed during the 50-minute meeting were religious freedom, life and conscientious objection. These topics are a source of tension between the Church and the federal government, particularly with the contraception mandate in the new healthcare law that requires nearly all health insurance plans to cover sterilizations, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs – all of which are contrary to Church teaching.
The Vatican did highlight that there were two main points of harmony with President Obama in the meeting: immigration reform and the “common commitment to the eradication of the trafficking of human persons in the world.”
At the close of the meeting, Pope Francis gave President Obama a copy of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). Catholic News Service reports that upon receiving the gift, President Obama told the pope,
“You know, I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I am deeply frustrated, and I am sure it will give me strength and will calm me.”
“I hope,” the pope replied with a laugh.
President Obama presented Pope Francis with a box of fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House gardens, as well as a box made from reclaimed wood used to build America’s first Catholic cathedral, Baltimore’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For the full story, see the Catholic News Service article.