Greeted by the Swiss Guards and Bishop James Harvey
Obama and pope hold their first meeting
By VICTOR L. SIMPSON – 40 minutes ago
VATICAN CITY (AP) — President Barack Obama sat down with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Friday for a meeting in which frank but constructive talks were expected between two men who agree on helping the poor but disagree on abortion and stem cell research.
"It's a great honor," Obama said as he greeted the pope, thanking him for the meeting. They sat down at the pontiff's desk and exchanged pleasantries before reporters and photographers were ushered out of the ornate room.
The pope was heard asking about the Group of Eight summit, the meeting of developed nations that concluded before Obama's arrival at Vatican City. Obama said it "was very productive."
With some Catholic activists and American bishops outspoken in their criticism of Obama, even as polls have shown he received a majority of Catholic votes, the audience was much awaited.
Obama's election presented a challenge for the Vatican after eight years of common ground with President George W. Bush in opposing abortion, an issue that drew them together despite the Vatican's opposition to the war in Iraq.
But the Vatican has been openly interested in Obama's views and scheduled an unusual afternoon meeting to accommodate him at the end of his Italian stay for a G-8 summit meeting in the earthquake-stricken city of L'Aquila and just before he leaves for Ghana.
In the tradition-conscious Vatican, most such meetings are held at midday. The Vatican has also arranged live TV coverage of the open session of the meeting after their private talks.
"I think there will be frank discussion," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said earlier this week. "I think that there's a lot that they agree on that they'll get a chance to discuss."
"We know the pope has been keenly aware of the president's outreach to the Muslim world. The pope shares the president's view on reducing the number of nuclear weapons. So I think there's certainly a lot of common ground."
Benedict broke Vatican protocol the day after Obama was elected by sending a personal note of congratulations rather than waiting and sending the usual brief telegram on Inauguration Day.
"I've had a wonderful conversation with the pope over the phone right after the election," Obama told a group of Catholic journalists in Washington before he left for Europe. "And in some ways we see this as a meeting with any other government — the government of the Holy See. There are going to be some areas where we've got deep agreements; there are going to be some areas where we've got some disagreements."
But he acknowledged the pope is more than a government head, saying the church "has such profound influence worldwide and in our country."
L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's daily newspaper, gave Obama a positive review after his first 100 days in office. In a front-page editorial, it said that even on ethical questions Obama hadn't confirmed the "radical" direction he discussed during the campaign.
Tensions grew when Obama was invited to receive an honorary degree at the leading U.S. Catholic university, Notre Dame. Dozens of U.S. bishops denounced the university and the local bishop boycotted the ceremony.
Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, who now heads a Vatican tribunal, accused Obama of pursuing anti-life and antifamily agendas. He called it a "scandal" that Notre Dame had invited him to speak.
Yet L'Osservatore concluded that Obama was looking for some common ground with his speech, noting he asked Americans to work together to reduce the number of abortions.
Some conservative American Catholics criticized the Vatican newspaper for its accommodating stance.
This week, Cardinal Justin Rigali, who heads the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, complained that the final guidelines of the National Institutes of Health for human embryonic stem cell research are broader than the draft guidelines.
As a child in Indonesia, Obama's Muslim father enrolled him in Catholic school for a few years. The president is a Protestant who says he is taking his time picking a church because his choice will undergo political scrutiny.
Obama left the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church in Chicago after incendiary sermons were made public and their relationship became a political liability for him as a presidential candidate.
White House national security aide Denis McDonough, speaking to reporters Thursday on the influence of Catholic social teaching on Obama, said the president "expresses many things that many Catholics recognize as fundamental to our teaching."
Obama "often refers to the fundamental belief that each person is endowed with dignity ... The dignity of people is a driving goal in what we hope to accomplish in development policy, for example, and in foreign policy," McDonough said.
In the interview with Catholic journalists, Obama said he would tell the pope of his concern that the world financial crisis is not "borne disproportionally by the most poor and vulnerable countries."
Just this week, Benedict issued a major document calling for a new world financial order guided by ethics and the search for the common good, denouncing the profit-at-all-cost mentality blamed for bringing about the global financial meltdown.
As Obama has pledged to step-up efforts for Middle East peace through a two-state solution, Benedict made a similar appeal during a trip in May to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. He issued the Vatican's strongest call yet for a Palestinian state.
Obama met first with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, before meeting Benedict in the pope's study.
Obama's wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, were joining him at the end of his meeting with Benedict.
President Barack Obama is welcomed by Bishop James Harvey, at right, as he arrives at the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, Friday July 10, 2009. Obama's motorcade arrived at the Holy See on Friday, greeted by Swiss Guards. Several hundred people lined the broad avenue leading to St. Peter's Square. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Quite pleased to see they both have open communication.
Source: Spirit Daily News
Last edited by Admin on Thu Jul 16, 2009 10:18 pm; edited 1 time in total