News and Views
Pope Francis raises ‘right to life’ in Obama talks
Pope Francis has met President Barack Obama in Rome for the first time, with the contentious issues of abortion and contraception on the agenda.
The Vatican said the talks touched on “the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection”.
The Church backs doctors who refuse to perform abortions and is concerned at contraception in US healthcare laws.
Mr Obama, who has praised the Pope’s compassion, told him it was a “great honour” to meet him.
The US president had flown to Rome after three days of talks with world leaders in the Netherlands and Brussels.
The Vatican gave few specifics about the nature of the “cordial” one-hour audience.
But in a statement it said: “In the context of bilateral relations and co-operation between Church and state, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection.”
The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says the Pope strongly opposes Mr Obama’s liberal views on abortion, contraception and gay marriage.
For example, contraception coverage is mandated under Mr Obama’s healthcare laws.
Our correspondent says it had been expected that efforts to combat global poverty might feature prominently in the talks. But the Vatican’s official statement made no mention of this.
It did refer to two areas of accord – reforming US immigration laws and tackling human trafficking.