President Obama will meet with Pope Francis tomorrow on one of his stops during his European Tour. This is Obama’s second visit the Vatican, but the first time the South American pope and Obama will meet. The tone of Obama’s second visit to Vatican City is not as jovial as was his visit in 2009. Obama was riding on a wave of public support and it was the Vatican’s Public Relations image that needed a facelift back then. Political and religious critics have warned that President Obama may not receive the warm welcome from many in Vatican as he may wish. Obama is no novice in strategy when meeting with world leaders that do not agree with him on issues of domestic or foreign policy. What exactly will be addressed during President Obama and Pope Francis’ meeting tomorrow at the Vatican has international political and Catholic circles a buzz.
In 2009 when Pontiff Emeritus Benedict XVI meet with Obama, it was the Vatican that needed a PR makeover from Obama’s then mass popularity. As the Vatican was in the midst of the child abuse scandal and the Vatican bank was experiencing intense scrutiny for being a financial institution laden with embezzlement charges. Now, Obama’s political image is the one in need of saving face. He has encountered tough criticism from the Vatican and European Union leaders for spying on his allies. The pope with rock star fame could be just the photo opportunity Obama needs to see his approval ratings increase.
Many critics have warned President Obama to prepare for a not so warm welcome from the world’s Argentine pope. Although, the two influential world leaders agree on combatting poverty and the right to earn a livable wage, and immigration reform. The pair do not see eye-to-eye on human rights issues such as abortion, and gay marriage. Political advisors also warn President Obama to prepare for Francis to bring up the topic of contraception coverage being forced upon insurance providers under the Affordable Care Act.
The Argentine pope favors a more diplomatic approach in handling world crises like the Syrian conflict, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and the US embargo against Cuba. This approach is opposed to the White House’s military style of engage-and-eliminate, implemented under Obama’s administration. Tomorrow’s meeting at the Vatican between President Obama and Pope Francis will likely address these and other diplomatic concerns.
Other more vocal critics within the United States political and religious elite, notably Rand Paul have spoken up on his narrative of the upcoming meeting. Paul advises President Obama to break the ice with the Latin American pope by promising not to continue spying on him, and added. “The Hobby Lobby case is being discussed today,” Paul said. “[A]nd I think it’s important that he tell the leader of the Catholic Church why he thinks that businesses owned by Catholics can’t make their own decisions with regard to health care.”
Another of President Obama’s strongly opposed critics, Vatican chief justice Cardinal Raymond Burke accused Obama of being hostile towards faith and liberty. Burke reported this statement last week to Polish magazine Polonia Christiana. “[Obama] appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.” Burke said.
President Obama will most likely not be greeted as the adopted son of the Catholic Church his PR image needs. Nor, will he be shunned as some of his political and religious opponents would like. Obama will find the Pontiff to have an open hear for discussion on his efforts to reform U.S. immigration. Along with other key issues the two world leaders share in common. Tomorrow’s meeting at the Vatican between President Obama and Pope Francis will have the world of politics and Christianity debating for weeks to come.
By Sergio Romero