It’s official: President Barack Obama and Pope Francis will meet at the White House this fall.
According to a White House statement released Thursday, the two leaders will discuss “their shared values” on issues such as “caring for the marginalized and poor,” the economy, the environment, religious freedom, and immigration. The two are scheduled to meet Sept. 23, the day before the pope’s unprecedented address to a joint session of Congress.
Although the Obama Administration has clashed with US Church leaders over certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the president has repeatedly expressed his admiration for Pope Francis.
Last month, the president said he was touched by the pope’s “call to relieve suffering, and to show justice and mercy and compassion to the most vulnerable” during a talk at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
When the United States announced that it would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba late last year, both sides acknowledged that Pope Francis and the Holy See had played a central role in brokering the deal.
In his announcement of the new diplomatic relations, Obama thanked the pope, “whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is.”
A month later, during his State of the Union address, Obama mentioned the pope once again.
“And this year, Congress should begin the work of ending the embargo. As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps.’ These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba,” he said, making Francis only the third pontiff to receive a presidential shout-out during the annual update to Congress.
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