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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI Cleverly Uses Meeting with Obama to Deliver Clear Pro-Life Message

By Georgia Kijesky
Abortion, conscience protection and bioethics took center stage as Benedict XVI and U.S. President Barack Obama met for the first time on Friday.(And, as far as we know, Obama did not audaciously request religious articles to be covered up for the famous photo op.)

Although Obama and Pope Benedict had a 'truly cordial' encounter," according to Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardia, there was no diplomatic silence from the Pontiff about their differences over abortion and other “life issues."

According to a written statement from the Vatican, the first issues discussed during a 35-minute private meeting this afternoon in the Apostolic Palace were “questions which … constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of human life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.”

The latter phrase was understood as a reference to the current debate in America over protections for health care workers who assert a conscientious objection to participating in abortions or other procedures. During a session with Catholic journalists last week, Obama promised a “robust conscience clause” which would not weaken protections in vigor during the Bush administration.

Cleverly, the Pope drew upon Obama's repetitious rhetoric to "reduce abortions," when it came to deciding what gifts he would present to the American President.

In addition to giving President Obama a mosaic portraying St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Basilica along with a signed copy of his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Charity in Truth), which has become the Pope’s standard offering to heads of state this week, Benedict also gave an “unannounced gift”--a Vatican document titled, Dignitas Personae, an instruction from the Vatican’s doctrinal agency on bioethics and life-issues released last December.

As reporters waited outside during the private session, a top papal aide approached to explain that the Pope was presenting him with a copy of Dignitas Personae. The papal aide explained, “The reading [of this document] could help the President better understand the church’s position.”

“I will have something to read on the plane,” President Obama joked after receiving the encyclicals.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, told Vatican Radio after the audience that the Pope's gift of the letter >"Dignitas Personae" was "very significant."

Dignitas Personae lays out the church’s position in defense of human life “from conception to natural death,” and also treats a wide range of new bioethical questions such as embryonic stem cell research, cloning, preimplantation diagnosis and genetic engineering.

President Obama gave the Pontiff a stole that was drapped upon the body of St. John Neumann from 1988 to 2007. A stole is a long, narrow strip of cloth, draped over the neck and falling to about the knees, worn by a priest or bishop when celebrating Mass or presiding at other liturgical ceremonies.

Louis DiCocco, president of St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio, an architecture and design firm based in Pennsylvania that specializes in building and restoring churches, was instrumental in obtaining the stole for the president, according to the Redemptorists.

His firm designed and built a chair used by Pope Benedict at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington during his visit in April 2008.

DiCocco was approached by the Obama administration about a possible gift for the pope.

“They wanted to find an antique chalice, but I suggested it was important to get something more personable,” DiCocco said in a statement. “I told them about this stole that was something that belonged to an immigrant who was so instrumental in serving immigrants and building Catholic schools. What better than the stole that represents the priest?”

Typically that gift exchange is pro-forma, but clearly, this afternoon Benedict XVI used it to stress his message on the life issues.

Beyond the life issues, the Vatican’s statement indicated that Benedict and Obama also found “general agreement” on the Middle East peace process and other regional situations. The two leaders also touched food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, immigration and drug trafficking, according to the statement.

Following the meeting, Lombardi told reporters that Benedict XVI said that Obama had seemed “attentive” to the church’s concerns, and that Obama had reiterated his commitment to adopting policies that will bring down the actual number of abortions.

In addition to his family, Obama’s entourage included Kaye Wilson, General Jim Jones, Denis McDonough, Mona Sutphen, Robert Gibbs, David Axelrod, Julieta Valls (currently responsible for the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See), Alyssa Mastnaco Clay Beers, Melissa Winter, Joseph Clancy and interpreter Elisabeth Ullman.
They all received commemorative medals and blessed Rosaries.

At the end of the meeting, the Pope said in English, "I pray for you and bless your work."

"I am very grateful, I hope we will have fruitful relationships," the President responded.

Also at the end of the meeting, Obama hand-delivered a personal letter from self-proclaimed Catholic, Ted Kennedy, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last year. Obama asked the pope to pray for Kennedy.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One that Obama phoned Kennedy after the meeting.

"The President just as we lifted off spoke with Senator Kennedy for about 10 minutes, telling him that he had delivered the letter on his behalf to the Pope today," Gibbs said.

"The contents of the letter were not known to anybody that I know of except Sen. Kennedy," he added.

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Not just a prayer book for teens...but for people of all ages! You will LOVE it! Order your copy TODAY!

Books for Children

  • Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss
  • The Weight of a Mass: A Tale of Faith, by Josephine Nobisso
  • The Princess and the Kiss, by Jennie Bishop
  • Angel in the Waters, by Regina Doman

More Recommended Reading

  • Abortion: Yes or No? by John L. Grady, M.D.
  • Changed ~ Making Sense of Your Own or a Loved One's Abortion Experience, by Michaelene Fredenburg
  • Ending Abortion Not Just Fighting It, by Fr. Frank A. Pavone, M.E.V.
  • Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), by Pope John Paul II
  • God Is Love, An Encyclical Letter of Pope Benedict XVI
  • Humane Vitae: A Challenge to Love, by Pope Paul VI
  • Is the Fetus Human? by Eric Pastuszek
  • Led by Faith, by Immaculee Ilibigiza
  • Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibigiza
  • Living the Gospel of Life ~ the pastoral statement issued by U.S. Catholic Bishops
  • Noise, by Teresa Tomeo
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hope for the World by Dan Lynch
  • Render Unto Caesar, by Charles J. Chaput
  • The Way to Love, by Anthony De Mello
  • Won By Love, by Norma McCorvey

Dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe
Patroness of the Americas, Intercessor for the Pre-born
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