Pope-Obama meet to be special
L'AQUILA: Barack Obama's meeting with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Friday carries more weight than normal for the new US president, the White House said.
"He recognises that this is much more than your typical state visit," Obama aide Denis McDonough said.
Obama, a committed Christian, will have his first audience with the pope since becoming president shortly after the end of a three-day Group of Eight summit in the Italian town of L'Aquila. He will be accompanied by his wife Michelle.
"In many ways the visit is not unlike visits with other heads of state," said McDonough, a deputy National Security Advisor. "That is to say that there are issues on which they'll agree, issues on which they'll disagree, and issues on which they'll agree to continue to work on going forward." After taking office in January, Obama ended his predecessor George W. Bush's restrictions on government funding for embryonic stem cell research and for family planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.
"The fact however is that, given the influence of the Catholic Church globally as well as in the United States, and frankly given the influence of the Catholic Church and Church social teaching on the President himself, he recognises that this is much more than your typical state visit," said McDonough.
"I do believe that it's fair to say that the President very much looks forward to this visit.
"Since a very good conversation he had with the Holy Father as President-elect, I believe it was in early December, the President has been looking for an opportunity to visit the Holy Sea and to meet in person with the Holy Father."