VATICAN CITY (AP) — President Barack Obama and the
Vatican gave distinctly different accounts of the president's audience
with Pope Francis, with Obama stressing their common ground over issues
of poverty and inequality and Vatican officials emphasizing sharp
differences over abortion and birth control.
himself as "incredibly moved" by his nearly hour-long session with the
popular pontiff. He said the two spent the most time discussing the
plight of the poor and the marginalized as well as regions of conflict
and the elusive nature of peace around the world.
The Vatican, in
statement shortly after the conclusion of the meeting, said discussions
centered on questions of "particular relevance for the church in that
country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life
and conscientious objection" — issues that have fueled divisions between
Obama and Catholics in the U.S.
But Obama said those discussions
took place with the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, not with
Francis. Issues like contraception and religious freedom, Obama said,
"really was not a topic of conversation" with the pope.
grateful to have the opportunity to speak with him about the
responsibilities that we all share to care for the least of these, the
poor, the excluded," Obama said during a news conference with Prime
Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome. "And I was extremely moved by his
insights about the importance of us all having a moral perspective on
world problems and not simply thinking in terms of our own narrow
The marked difference in emphasis introduced a
perplexing element to the long-anticipated meeting, which the White
House has looked forward to as way to validate Obama's economic
policies. But in a report on Vatican Radio the day before the meeting,
the Vatican signaled that the divisive issues would indeed be on the
Kuhnhenn reported from Rome