by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Vatican March 27, the White House announced and the Vatican confirmed.
The spring meeting would be Obama’s second visit to the Vatican as president, but his first with Pope Francis, who was elected March 13, 2013.
The White House said the Vatican visit would be part of a presidential trip to the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.
“The president looks forward to discussing with Pope Francis their shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing inequality,” said the Jan. 21 White House statement.
During the same trip, Obama will participate in a summit in the Netherlands on nuclear security, visit the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission in Brussels and hold talks in Rome with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met his Vatican counterpart, Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin, at the Vatican Jan. 14, he told reporters, “I know that the Holy Father is anticipating the visit of President Obama here, and the president is looking forward to coming here to meet with him.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that Cardinal-designate Parolin and Kerry had discussed, among other subjects, “themes that have been the object of concern and discussion by the U.S. bishops,” particularly “the health care reform and its relationship to guarantees of religious freedom” – an apparent reference to the contraception mandate that has proven a major point of tension between the Obama administration and the Church.