At the recent annual National Prayer Breakfast the President said he is looking forward to meet with Pope Francis and especially underlined the Pope's stance on inequality that resonates with Obama's stances on the issue of income inequality.
Obama talked of the "threats to religious freedom" throughout the world, from China to Egypt and Sudan to Burma. He did not address religious freedoms in the United States, which some conservative groups say is under threat because of the controversial contraception mandate in the new health care law. Dozens of lawsuits, including two that have reached the Supreme Court, have been filed against the mandate on the grounds that it curtails religious freedoms.
I'm sure those conservative groups feel they are closer to the Pope than Obama could ever be, but if you think about it a little longer you might conclude differently.
Pope Francis and President Obama could actually agree on many issues. In fact, Pope Francis has more in common with Obama than for example Sarah Palin. Palin's people between themselves think the Pope is communist or something….
But, Pope Francis is Catholic and American media often has a problem understanding Catholicism itself. And conservatives do not get it at all.
The U.S. newspaper headlines claim that the Pope has declared faith irrelevant to salvation or that same-sex marriage is acceptable. They say that Francis had declared that atheists would get into heaven as long as they performed good deeds. What really happened was that Pope Francis spoke of ecumenical communion between believers and good-hearted atheists, where work for the poor and downtrodden would provide a meeting place of hearts. He pointed out the basic tenet of Christianity that Jesus Christ came to redeem all sinners. That was the Pope's message.
The pope has an image of the church as "a field hospital" to heal those wounded by sin. "We have to find a new balance" in that triage by starting with the good news of salvation, rather than a litany of rules and dictates, including those about abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. "[T]he proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives," Francis said.
This Pope is cool!
In fact, cheering for the Pope is hip in a way we haven't seen since John Paul II took on the Soviets early in his papacy. The gentle pastor of the Vatican has made Catholicism cool again. I'm sure Obama gets it. And I believe that Obama is really looking forward to meet Pope Francis. I'd like to have a chat with the man too…
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