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Opinion

The gift from Pope Francis that might not comfort Obama in the Oval Office

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Charlie Spiering,Religion,Pope Francis

During President Obama's visit to the Vatican on Wednesday, Pope Francis gave him a bound copy of his letter, Evangelii Gaudium, which was released in 2013.

“I actually will probably read this in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated,” Obama said after receiving the gift. “I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.”

Obama was likely referring to the parts of the document that talk about helping the poor and showing mercy and compassion to the afflicted.

The pope's gift, however, might have a few uncomfortable passages for the president.

Pope Francis writes about the importance of religious freedom, explicitly arguing for the right to practice faith publicly.

Forcing citizens to practice their faith privately, Francis argues, is contrary to the true meaning of religious freedom.

"This would represent, in effect, a new form of discrimination and authoritarianism," the letter reads.

The pope criticizes "intellectuals and serious journalists" that "frequently descend to crude and superficial generalizations" when discussing religion without respecting the differences between people of faith and secular public figures.

"Some politicians take advantage of this confusion to justify acts of discrimination," the pope writes. "At other times, contempt is shown for writings which reflect religious convictions, overlooking the fact that religious classics can prove meaningful in every age; they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and the heart."

Pope Francis also writes about abortion, reminding readers that unborn children are "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," he writes.

The pope points out that society frequently attempts to minimize the value of the unborn and mock those that stand up for life.

"[T]his defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right," he explains. "It involves the conviction that a human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development."

Perhaps Obama will pick up the Evangelii Gaudium in the Oval Office. If he does, there's a great deal he could learn about religious freedom and the importance of defending life at all its stages.

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