PAPAL GREETINGS FOR THE PRESIDENT
The Pope very much wanted to meet with the President and scheduled an unusual afternoon meeting to accommodate him at the end of his Italian stay for a G-8 summit meeting. In the tradition-conscious Vatican, most such meetings are held earlier in the day. The Vatican also arranged live television coverage of the open session of the meeting after their private talks.
Benedict also broke Vatican protocol the day after Obama was elected by sending a personal note of congratulations rather than waiting and sending the usual brief telegram on Inauguration Day.
The First Lady and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, joined him at the end of the meeting, and gifts were exchanged. The President gave the Pope a stole that is a relic of St. John Neumann, CSSR, an American saint and immigrant. Several senior White House staff members also met the pope, with some either shaking his hand or kissing his ring.
According to the Pope's official spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, the pope was "very impressed" by Obama and that the pontiff was "extremely satisfied" with the talks. Father also said that "Obama told the pope of his commitment to reduce the number of abortions and of his attention and respect for the positions of the Catholic Church."
The pope also gave the president a copy of his latest encyclical, "Charity in Truth," which called for a "world political authority" to manage the global economy and for more government regulation of national economies to pull the world out of the current crisis and avoid a repeat.