By Ann Marie Foley - 23 January, 2014
President Obama is to meet with Pope Francis in March.
In a statement by press secretary Jay Carney, the White House announced that the President “looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality.”
Commentators in American media have stated that Obama’s presidency has been marked by some differences with the Catholic Church on issues including abortion and contraception. But they state Pope Francis’ approach to world economic issues is seen as more in line with Obama’s own approach. In an interview last year, Obama spoke of Pope Francis as a “thoughtful and soulful” messenger of peace and justice.
Before going to Italy, the president will go to the Netherlands from 24-25th March for the Nuclear Security Summit where world leaders will review progress and commit to future steps to prevent nuclear terrorism. President Obama will continue on to Brussels and on 26th March make first visit to the EU institutions. While in Rome, President Obama will also meet with Italian President Napolitano and Prime Minister Letta.
President Obama previously visited the Vatican on 10th July 2009 and met Benedict XVI. that visit coincided with the Group of Eight industrialized nations visit to the earthquake struck town of L’Aquila, east of Rome.
At that time he was the 12th US president to visit Vatican. The former U.S. President George W. Bush’s visited Pope John Paul II three times and met Pope Benedict at the Vatican twice.
The first U.S. president to visit the Vatican was Woodrow Wilson. He met Pope Benedict XV while on a European tour after World War I in 1919. Then 40 years later Dwight D. Eisenhower met Pope John XXIII in 1959. Since then, each U.S. president has made a trip to the Vatican. John F. Kennedy met Pope Paul VI in 1963.
Since President Carter’s visit, the pope’s have addressed similar themes – world peace and the protection of human life especially the life of the unborn.