.- Pope Benedict XVI received President Barack Obama this afternoon in his private library, and after 36 minutes of private conversation, the pair emerged without providing any details about their topics of conversation. Nevertheless, the Holy See revealed that the Pope gave Obama an “unannounced gift”--a Vatican document on bioethics and the right to life.
"The G8 has been very productive, 20 billion dollars have been allocated [to poor countries]; that's something concrete," President Obama told the Pope when he asked about the summit, as photographers and journalists were ushered out of the Papal library.
The meeting between the Pope and the U.S. President started at 4:25 p.m. local time, after an unusually short meeting of ten minutes with the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
After the private conversation, and again in front of the cameras, President Obama gave the Pontiff a stole that was drapped upon the body of St. John Neumann from 1988 to 2007. The Pope instead presented the president with a mosaic portraying St. Peter's Square and the Vatican Basilica, and an autographed copy of his latest social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.”
“I will have something to read on the plane,” President Obama joked after receiving the encyclical.
At the end of the meeting, the Pope said in English, "I pray for you and bless your work."
"I am very grateful, I hope we will have fruitful relationships," the President responded.
Despite the fact that the Vatican did not release an official statement about the nature of the meeting, the “unannounced” gift to Obama of the 2008 document "Dignitas Personae" on bioethics and the right to life, could be a signal of the nature of at least part of their conversation.
Pope Benedict Spoke to Obama on Right to Life, Freedom of Conscience
ROME, July 10, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pope Benedict gave US President Barack Obama a surprise gift of the Vatican bioethics document "Dignitatis Personae," and discussed the ethics of abortion and embryo research in their first meeting in Rome this afternoon.
A Vatican statement has said that in their private discussion, the pope addressed issues of "the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one's conscience."
At the customary exchange of gifts, Obama presented Pope Benedict with a relic - a stole that had been draped over the body of the US's most popular Catholic saints, St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia from1852 to 1860. The pope also offered the president religious medals and rosaries, as well as a copy of his latest encyclical, signed this week, "Caritas in Veritate."
A lengthy live feed video of the meeting showed a relaxed Obama greeting the pope warmly and sitting down immediately at his desk to a conversation that began with the recently concluded G-8 summit meeting in the earthquake-struck city of L'Aquila.
"Dignitatis Personae" (On the Dignity of Persons) is a 2008 instruction by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that gives the Catholic teaching on the ethics of embryonic research and reiterates Church opposition to contraception and abortion, mentioning new methods of birth control such as female condoms and the morning-after pill.
At the end of the meeting, Pope Benedict told the president, "A blessing on all your work and also for you." The president responded, "Thank you very much. We look forward to a very strong relationship."
According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, "Obama told the pope of his commitment to reduce the number of abortions and of his attention and respect for the positions of the Catholic Church."
Barack Obama told Pope Benedict XIV it was "a great honor" to meet him in what may be one of the US President's most successful PR ventures in his presidency to date. The meeting in the pope's private office lasted forty minutes and consisted of what White House spokesmen described as "frank but constructive" private discussion on world issues.
After eight years of friendly Vatican relations between former President George W. Bush, observers have eagerly awaited this meeting. Despite differences between the Bush administration and the Vatican on the war in Iraq, the former president's relationship with the Catholic Church was strengthened by his initiatives in defence of human life.
With Obama's zealous support for legal abortion, even to the point of having opposed legislation to protect children born alive after failed abortions, it is expected that tensions with the current administration will be higher.The Vatican has made unusual accommodations for the visit, scheduling it in the late afternoon before Obama proceeds to a visit to Africa and allowing extensive live video coverage. The Vatican normally schedules such meetings for midday.