Benedict-Obama Meeting Plans

Obama visits Cairo's Sultan Hassan Mosque June 4.
Obama visits Cairo's Sultan Hassan Mosque June 4. (photo: CNS/Reuters)

The Vatican and the White House are close to agreeing on a date for President Barack Obama to meet Pope Benedict XVI in early July. The president will be in Rome while he attends the G8 summit in the Italian town of L’Aquila July 8-10.

According to informed sources, there’s “work in progress” on a time and date but no official announcement has yet been made because of difficulty in finding a date that’s mutually convenient. It’s believed there is only a small window of opportunity for the president to meet with the Pope as Obama’s visit to Italy is short, and sandwiched between his trips to Russia and Ghana.

However, despite these difficulties, sources say an agreement is close and the White House is likely to confirm a meeting very soon.

Meanwhile, tomorrow and Wednesday, religious leaders from around the world will gather in Rome to highlight “a spiritual and ethical face” for the G8 meeting. Among those attending will be Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, Abuna Paulos. It’ll be the fourth meeting of its kind.

According to tomorrow’s L’Osservatore Romano, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Italian bishops’ conference’s Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, said the leaders will address “the priority issues to be discussed at the G8, such as the economic and financial crisis, the water emergency, food security, health, education, peace and security.” Special attention will also be given to Africa.

“Our message to the politicians,” Archbishop Paglia said, “is lend an ear to the depths of the human heart and its problems.” He added that the religious leaders “will address the issues from an ethical point of view, providing that precious spiritual support for taking forward any social issue, in the authentic and genuine perspective of searching for the common good.”

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