WASHINGTON — Speaking at the 2014 Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House on April 14, U.S. President Barack Obama reflected on his recent meeting with Pope Francis, whom he described as an inspiration.
“I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis,” the president said, recalling his March 27 meeting with the Holy Father at the Vatican.
“I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis,” he said, explaining that this is partly because of the Holy Father’s words, which offer “a message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast. He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.”
“But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man and washing the feet of somebody who, normally, ordinary folks would just pass by on the street. He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously — and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.”
Obama said that he “had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.”
He noted that he invited the Holy Father to visit the United States, and he quoted from the Pope’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), which the Holy Father gave to him as a gift.
Reports on the private meeting between the president and the Pope, which lasted nearly an hour, indicated that they discussed topics including immigration, human trafficking and religious freedom, which has become an increasing concern for the U.S. Church under the Obama administration.
In his remarks at the prayer breakfast, the president also reflected on the April 13 shooting outside of a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kan. He called on the people of America to unite against violence and to remember that “we’re all children of God. We’re all made in his image, all worthy of his love and dignity.”
He also praised the ministry work done by various groups to promote peace, as well as “justice and dignity and inclusion.”
“So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God,” he said.
“We’re reminded how he loves us, so deeply, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that we might live through him. And in these holy days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion; in our Christian religious tradition, we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.”
Obama said that the story of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection “inspires us still today.”
“We are drawn to his timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of his sacrifice — to emulate as best we can his eternal example to love one another just as he loves us.”