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President Obama Meets Pope Francis: They Exchange Very Different Kinds of Seeds

By Deacon Keith Fournier
3/31/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Everyone who meets Pope Francis encounters his living faith - and is changed in the experience. He is straightforward in his presentation of the truth of the Gospel and is always concerned for the spiritual well-being of everyone he encounters. He is the universal pastor.

There was an exchange of gifts. The president gave the Pope literal seeds from the White House Garden to use in the upcoming planting in the apostolic garden. The Pope gave the President spiritual seeds, the seeds of the Gospel, to be planted in the heart of a man who needs their influence on many, many fronts. Hopefully, they will fall on good soil.When the meeting was over, the President thanked Pope Francis. Vatican reports indicate the President said, "Please pray for me and my family, they are with me on this journey - pray for them." We can all read between the lines of the Vatican statement. Many commentators will be parsing those few words for weeks to come. More importantly, we can all pray that the seed of the Gospel of Joy and Truth which the Pope gave to the President take root.

The Pope and the President

The Pope and the President

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - On Thursday morning, March 27, 2014, President Barack Obama met Pope Francis behind closed doors for close to an hour. Leading up to the meeting, the spinning and speculating was running rampant. 

At the conclusion, it reached a fever pitch.

Over the coming weeks, there will be numerous accounts about the exchange. Some will be accurate, most will not. The spin masters will be out in full force.

I encourage our readers around the globe to pray that the encounter will bear real fruit in the life of President Obama and effect dramatic changes in his leadership.

Everyone who meets Pope Francis encounters his living faith - and is changed in the experience.

He is straightforward in his presentation of the truth of the Gospel and is always concerned for the spiritual well-being of everyone he encounters. He is the universal pastor.

There was an exchange of gifts. The president gave the Pope literal seeds from the White House Garden to use in the upcoming planting in the apostolic garden.

The Pope gave the President spiritual seeds, the seeds of the Gospel, to be planted in the heart of a man who needs their influence on many, many fronts. Hopefully, they will fall on good soil.

The official Vatican release is short but quite insightful:

This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.

In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.

Pope Francis gave the President a copy of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, on the joy of the Gospel. The President told him, "I will actually probably read this when I am in the Oval Office and when I am deeply frustrated. I am sure it will give me strength and calm me down."

Speaking in English, Pope Francis replied, "I hope."

We need to pray that the President actually does read this beautiful apostolic exhortation. When and if  he does he will read paragraphs 213 and 214:

Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this.

Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church's effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.

It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development. Human beings are ends in themselves and never a means of resolving other problems.

Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be. Reason alone is sufficient to recognize the inviolable value of each single human life, but if we also look at the issue from the standpoint of faith, "every violation of the personal dignity of the human being cries out in vengeance to God and is an offense against the creator of the individual".

Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or "modernizations".

It is not "progressive" to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?

When the meeting was over, the President thanked Pope Francis. Vatican reports indicate the President said, "Please pray for me and my family, they are with me on this journey - pray for them."

We can all read between the lines of the Vatican statement. Many commentators will be parsing those few words for weeks to come. More importantly, we can all pray that the seed of the Gospel of Joy and Truth which the Pope gave to the President take root.

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