Obama to meet pope on March 27: What will they talk about?
Many believe U.S. president will steer dialogue towards economic inequity, the poor
There is debate on what U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, who are scheduled to meet on this coming March 27, will talk about it. Many tenets of the Obama administration have been at odds with the Catholic Church, such as abortion. Many analysts agree that both men will probably discuss topics they both agree upon, such as wealth inequity and the plight of the poor.
Obama will meet with the pope in March during a four-day European trip that includes a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands and a U.S.-European Union summit in Brussels. The meeting will be the first between the president and Pope Francis.
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Obama had an audience with former Pope Benedict XVI in July of 2009. The Vatican at that time underscored the deep disagreement between White House on abortion. Benedict gave the president a copy of a Vatican document on bioethics that asserted the church's opposition to using embryos for stem cell research, cloning and in-vitro fertilization.
In the meantime, Pope Francis has made it clear that Catholic positions on homosexuality, same-sex marriage and abortion haven't changed.
"But in his view those issues which create conflict need to be deemphasized a bit," John C. Green, a political scientist who specializes in religion and politics at the University of Akron said.
The pope decried trickle-down theories that assert that economic growth can result in greater justice and inclusiveness. As he declared in November, "The excluded are still waiting."
Obama can only benefit from Francis' emphasis on economic disparities, Paul Begala, a former top aide to President Bill Clinton, said. "It becomes very difficult for conservatives to attack President Obama for being divisive, when the world's greatest figure for unity is saying pretty much the same thing," Begala said.
Francis' attention to poverty has been brought to the attention of Republicans, among them Rep. Paul Ryan, a devout Catholic and Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012.
The economic theme will be a centerpiece of Obama's State of the Union address next week. His proposals, however, such as a higher minimum wage, universal pre-school and ending loopholes for the wealthy - face difficulty in Congress in an election year.
"American Catholics as a whole don't tend to take specific policy guidance from the pope, whether it's Pope Benedict or Pope Francis," Green said. "But what the pope can do is to get them thinking about particular issues and thinking about them in distinctly Catholic ways. That kind of rethinking could very well be an advantage to President Obama."
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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