Obama, Pope Francis meeting: Looking for common ground at the White House
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Obamas will host Pope Francis at the White House during his first visit to the U.S. on Sept. 23.
When Obama met the Pope for the first time at the Vatican in March 2014, he urged him to visit the U.S., and the two discussed a range of issues including economic opportunity, immigration reform in the US and protecting innocent civilians in conflict areas around the world.
Obama has often expressed his admiration for the Pope’s ability to call attention to issues including income inequality, even while admitting they disagree on certain social issues.
In a statement the White House said Obama hopes to continue this conversation around their shared values and commitments, including the environment and protecting religious freedom and minorities.
After the White House announced it would re-new diplomatic ties with Cuba it was revealed that the meeting also included discussion of the Pope’s desire for the two nations to reset relations. In announcing the policy shift Obama thanked His Holiness and said the Pope’s “moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.”
The relationship between Catholic Leadership and the administration has not always been as friendly — in 2009 Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and discussed deeply divergent views on issues like abortion and stem cell research.
However, the President’s gift to Pope Francis while at the Vatican was a token of a fresh start in the relationship — Obama gave the Pope seeds that were in a box made from the timber from the first Cathedral to open in the United States in Baltimore.
The Pope gave the President two medallions — one symbolizing the need for peace and solidarity between the two hemispheres — and a copy of “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel.” The book was penned by the Pope and calls for a new era of evangelization and a renewed focus on the poor.
While in Washington the Pope will also address a joint meeting of Congress, the first time a Pope has done so in U.S. history. Later in his trip to the U.S. the Pope will also speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, and go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting ofFamilies event.