POLITICS: PennAve

Obama, Pope Francis discuss religious freedom

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,PennAve,Freedom of Religion,Religion,Pope Francis,Contraception,Italy

Pope Francis, in a high-profile meeting with President Obama on Thursday, raised concerns about religious freedom, according to the Vatican.

Obama and the pope “discussed questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in a readout of the meeting.

“Finally, the parties stated their common commitment to the eradication of human trafficking throughout the world,” the Vatican added.

The Catholic Church has raised objections to an Obamacare mandate that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception to their workers.

Obama, however, downplayed conversations with Vatican leaders about social issues, saying the talks were focused primarily on other topics.

"We actually did not talk a lot about social schisms ... that wasn't really a topic of conversation," the president insisted.

When asked about his interpretation of the Catholic Church's position on various social issues, Obama replied, "Some of them I differ with — most I heartily agree with."

The White House had hoped to use the papal visit to bring more attention to the issue of income inequality, a debate in which Obama frequently invokes Pope Francis. But reproductive issues have been a constant source of tension between the two leaders.

However, Obama said the Vatican secretary of state, not the pope, specifically raised concerns about the birth-control mandate.

Obama and the pope also exchanged thoughts on growing volatility on the international stage.

“Views were exchanged on some current international themes,” the Vatican said, “and hope was expressed that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.”

This story was published at 11:01 a.m. and has been updated.

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