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Pope Will Have 'Frank' Talk with Obama

Wednesday, 08 Jul 2009 02:49 PM

U.S. President Barack Obama's talks with Pope Benedict XVI will be "frank" but constructive in areas of disagreement such as abortion, the White House said Wednesday.

"I think there will be a frank discussion," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said aboard Air Force One en route to Italy where Obama is attending the Group of Eight summit that opened Wednesday.

Obama and the pope are to meet Friday after the summit.

"There's a lot that they agree on that they'll get a chance to discuss," Gibbs said. "We know the pope has been keenly aware of the president's outreach to the Muslim world (and) the pope shares the president's view on reducing the number of nuclear weapons."

On subjects such as abortion, "even if we don't see eye to eye on everything, there are steps that can be taken on a number of issues that will show progress, whether it's on something like unintended pregnancy or adoption," he said.

Pope Benedict, 82, is "somebody that gets to see a lot of the world, and I think getting his continued support for these efforts is obviously important," Gibbs said.

Obama, a committed Christian, gave a controversial commencement address in May at one of the top Catholic universities in the United States, Notre Dame in Indiana, while hundreds of activists outside denounced his support for abortion rights.

The US leader, while acknowledging that "at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable," said he sought "common ground."

Americans must find a way to "remain firm in our principles, and fight for what we consider right, without demonising those with just as strongly held convictions on the other side," he told Notre Dame's graduating class.

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.

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