Pope Gives Obama Encyclical on Right to Life

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Writer

The first meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama took place today at 4:00 p.m. in Rome, during which time the pope gave the president an “unannounced gift” – a copy of an encyclical on bioethics and the right to life.

The Associated Press is reporting that Obama greeted the pope, thanked him for this first meeting and called it “a great honor.” The two sat at the pope’s desk and exchanged pleasantries before reporters and photographers were ushered out of the room.

The Vatican has issued no comment about what was discussed during the half hour meeting that followed. However, the Holy See did reveal that the president was given an unannounced gift – a copy of Dignitas Personae – a 2008 document on bioethics and the right to life.

The revelation of the gift is believed to be a strong signal from the Vatican that the subject of respect for human life was indeed discussed at some point during the meeting.

Officially, the Pope presented the president with a mosaic portraying St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican Basilica along with 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 36 minute meeting, first lady Michelle Obama returned to her husband’s side.

As they were leaving, Obama again thanked the pope and said, “We look forward to a very strong relationship between our two countries.”

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