Obama to meet Pope Francis at Vatican on March 27th
posted at 1:15 pm on January 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
And boy, do I wish I could be there, if it were possible to be a fly on the wall during that meeting. Barack Obama wants to highlight the fight against income inequality after Pope Francis’ apostolic paper Evangelii Gaudium, but that won’t be the limit of topics from the Pontiff’s perspective:
“The president looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” the White House said in a statement.
The March 27 visit comes amid sharp disagreements between the administration and the Catholic church on issues such as the health law’s contraception coverage and the U.S. government’s tacit support for gay marriage and legalizing marijuana.
Catholic leaders are also concerned about allegations that the National Security Agency spied on the Vatican and about the State Department’s decision to consolidate the U.S. embassy at the Vatican inside the larger embassy to Italy, for security and financial reasons.
As with most visits between heads of state (as the Pope is for the Vatican), there won’t be much spontaneity on public display. The two will pose for a few minutes at most for the “spray,” the photographer corps’ coverage of the event, and then the two will retreat into private conversation on an agenda framed by negotiations between both governments. For most state visits, there could be a press conference afterward, but not here; Popes don’t usually participate in that format, and I don’t think Pope Francis would do so.
However, this Pope is known for his spontaneity in private and in public, so Obama had better not think that Francis will feel confined to a predetermined agenda. And while there will be plenty of agreement on the need to address profound inequalities in the world, Francis will likely press Obama on abortion and on the attempt to limit the living of faith with the HHS contraception mandate. That conversation might get a little … awkward, to say the least. But that awkwardness is unlikely to come out in public — at least not right away.
Like I said, I wish I could be there for the meeting, but mostly because covering the conclave last March was such a powerful experience. There won’t be as much potential for news in this event, at least not that which can’t be noted from here. Instead, I’ll stick to my plans for coming to CPAC earlier in the month.