Pope Benedict XVIUnited States
President Barack Obama praised Pope Francis’ moral leadership in an
interview published ahead of their first-ever meeting during an official
visit to Italy on Thursday.
The US leader is in Rome as part of a European trip that took him to the Netherlands and Belgium.
Obama is to have lunch with Italian
President Giorgio Napolitano and meet with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
after his visit to the Vatican.
His itinerary also includes a tour of the Colosseum and talks with US diplomats and UN officials.
“The Holy Father has inspired people
from all over the world, including me, with his commitment to social
justice and his message of love and compassion, especially for the
poorer and most vulnerable people among us,’’ Obama told Italy’s
Corriere della Sera newspaper.
“Given his great moral authority, we know that when the pope speaks, his words carry an enormous weight.’’
Obama said global inequalities would be one of the main thrust of his audience with the Argentine-born Catholic Church leader.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, tensions over Ukraine and the war in Syria were also expected to be on the agenda.
Vatican Radio said the pope would talk
about the Central African Republic, after meeting on Wednesday with
religious leaders from the war-ravaged nation.
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s national security
spokesman, told reporters the meeting would have an opportunity for them
to get to know each other personally.
According to the spokesman, this would help the president to hear from the pope about what he is trying to do around the world.
US bishops have clashed with the Obama
administration over its healthcare reform, which provides public funding
for abortion and family planning.
Obama’s visit to the Vatican could help mend relations between the two sides.
US ambassador to the Holy See Ken
Hackett last week told the Religion News Service: “I don’t believe the
pope and president will be arguing about why the church doesn’t change
its position on abortion, because it ain’t going to happen.”
Obama is scheduled to depart for Saudi Arabia on Friday.

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chiboy okere

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