Pope Benedict XVI told U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic who supports abortion, that Catholic politicians must protect life "at all stages of its development."
For her part, Pelosi's office issued a statement expressing her joy at meeting the Pope but not mentioning the abortion issue.
Pelosi is the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion.
The Vatican released the Pope's remarks to Pelosi, saying Benedict spoke of the church's teaching "on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death." That is an expression the pope often uses when expressing opposition to abortion.
Benedict said all Catholics, especially legislators, jurists, and political leaders, should work to create "a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development."
After the private 15-minute meeting after the pope's weekly public audience, Pelosi's office issued the statement saying, "It is with great joy that my husband, Paul, and I met" with the Pope.
"In our conversation, I had the opportunity to praise the church's leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father's dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel," she said.
"I was proud to show his holiness a photograph of my family's Papal visit in the 1950s, as well as a recent picture of our children and grandchildren."
The Vatican said it would not issue a photo of the meeting, as it usually does when the pope meets world leaders, saying the encounter was private.
Several U.S. bishops have challenged Pelosi's stance on abortion, particularly her theological defense of her support for abortion rights.
Pelosi also met with several Italian leaders during the past few days, including Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
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