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Pope Francis and President Obama exchange gifts, discuss refugee crisis in private Oval Office meeting

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Pope Francis received an ascending dove as gift from Obama

President Barack Obama and Pope Francis spent time together inside the White House in the famous Oval Office. The two discussed issues such as religious freedom and the refugee crisis.

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Catholic Online (
9/24/2015 (6 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Pope Francis, Barack Obama, Papal Visit to the US

MUNTINLUPA CITY, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis first visit to the White House included a time alone with the President Obama inside the Oval Office. The two discussed religious freedom and the refugee crisis in Middle East.

President Obama gave the Pope a sculpture of an ascending dove as a gift during their meeting.

Climate change and poverty were also among the topics that the Pope and the President of the US talked about during their private meeting at the Oval Office last Wednesday.

The two met after the public morning event held at the South Lawn of the White House. Obama's gift, according to officials of the White House was a symbol that represented the international symbol of peace and the Christian symbol of the Holy Spirit. Obama also presented Pope Francis with a key to the Maryland home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the very first native-born American to be declared a saint. The key goes as far as 1809.

Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary told reporters Wednesday, "It was a private meeting, so that limits my ability to talk about it. It lasted for 40 minutes. The president certainly did enjoy the opportunity to play host today, and it was an opportunity to show him to members of his staff, the Catholic members of his staff."

Neither the Pope nor Obama mentioned the current Syrian refugee crisis during the event at the South Lawn of the White House. However, it was included in their private meeting at the Oval Office.

According to the White House readout on the meeting, the two leaders discussed "our moral responsibility to provide refuge for people who are forced to flee from their homelands." The White House has already managed to provide $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance for the displaced Syrians for their basic necessities as well as for their food and heath care.

Religious freedom was also discussed between the two leaders. This follows the Obamacare mandate that led the Justice Department to sue a Catholic charity known as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who denies paying for the cost of contraception and abortion inducing drugs for their employees.

"Concurrent with the visit of Pope Francis to the White House, the first in a series of regional conferences on religious freedom for diplomatic personnel is taking place in Bangkok, Thailand, and additional conferences will be scheduled for other regions over the next couple of years," the White House said.


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