The president will need to perform a balancing act when Pope Francis comes to the U.S. later this month — as he and aides will be working to capitalize on the visit without appearing to politicize it, Politico
Many of the calls the Pope has made on issues such as climate change, poverty, and even Cuba are in line with President Barack Obama's, reports Politico, but still, the administration has rejected calls to make the papal presence a political opportunity, said a person close to the White House.
Francis is not only head of the Catholic Church, but he is also a head of state, as the Pope is also the leader of Vatican City
, the smallest country in the world. This means the planning must not only include the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, but also officials who deal with Europe and the State Department.
But if Obama starts addressing major legislation, he could be considered to be out of line, said Stephen Schneck, head of the Catholic University of America's policy institute, except for possible voicing concern about issues such as the Syrian refugee matter.
Discussing domestic policy, though, would be "trading on the authenticity of the moment," Schneck told Politico.
The White House does plan to announce a few policy issues, said the White House source, but they would most likely involve bipartisan support.
Francis, for his part, is expected to call in the Americans to unite politically. But still, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who serves as archbishop of Washington, said groups often use what the pope says to back their agendas.
Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II visited the White House during their papacies, but Francis is far more popular, and will be the first pope to speak before a joint congressional session.
Obama will greet the Pope on Sept. 22 when he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, and the church leader will be at the White House on Sept. 23.
His other D.C. appearances will include performing Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where GOP candidate Jeb Bush, a converted Catholic, is expected to attend. Vatican observers said the Pope will likely make other unscripted stops, as is his custom.
He also plans to visit New York and Philadelphia during his visit later this month, which is his first trip to the United States.
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