The Vatican and the White House reportedly are close to agreeing on a date for President Barack Obama to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in early July. The president will be in Rome while he attends the G-8 Summit in the earthquake-hit Italian town of L’Aquila July 8-10.
There’s “work in progress” on a time and date, according to informed sources, but no official announcement has been made because of difficulty in finding a mutually convenient date.
It’s believed there is only a small window of opportunity for the meeting, as Obama’s visit to Italy is short and sandwiched between his trips to Russia and Ghana.
Last month, Obama nominated an ambassador to represent the United States at the Vatican. If Congress approves the selection, Miguel Diaz will be the first theology professor to hold the post. The Hispanic claims to be firmly pro-life despite Obama’s radical pro-abortion position.
His nomination has been widely welcomed in the Vatican, but the delay in making it and the last-minute arranging of a presidential visit to the Pope have led some commentators to wonder how seriously the White House takes the Vatican and the Pope.
Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications at the White House, stressed that the Holy See “is very important to our foreign policy priorities.” That will please Vatican officials who, despite serious differences on life issues, are keen to work with the administration on common foreign-policy goals such as peace in the Middle East, nuclear nonproliferation, and religious freedom.
It’s not always the case that heads of state visiting Rome have a private audience with the Pope, but for a leader not to make the effort would be a break with protocol and considered discourteous.
For example, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was in the city for three days last week, and his decision not to see the Pope did not go down well in some circles.
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