The Corner

Vatican Déjà Vu?

In 2009, President Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican after the G-8 Summit, which took place in Italy. The two men met, smiled for the cameras, and exchanged gifts (the pope gave the president a book) and pleasantries.

This morning, Pope Francis received Barack Obama in the Vatican after the president attended the G-7 Summit in Brussels. The two met, smiled for the cameras, and exchanged gifts (the pope gave the president a book) and pleasantries.

Below are the Vatican News Services’s press releases for those two occasions. See if you can guess which press release goes with which visit.

Vatican Press release A:

In the course of their cordial exchanges the conversation turned first of all to questions which are in the interests of all and which constitute a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defense and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience.

Reference was also made to immigration with particular attention to the matter of reuniting families.

The meeting focused as well upon matters of international politics, especially in light of [a recent international] Summit. The conversation also dealt with the peace process in the Middle East, on which there was general agreement, and with other regional situations. Certain current issues were then considered, such as dialogue between cultures and religions, the global economic crisis and its ethical implications, food security, development aid especially for Africa and Latin America, and the problem of drug trafficking. Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted.

Vatican Press release B:

During the cordial meeting, views were exchanged on some current international themes and hope was expressed that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.

In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, the Parties discussed questions of particular relevance for the Church, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the Parties stated their common commitment to the eradication of human trafficking throughout the world.

Pope Francis and his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, are very different in many ways. And their pontificates differ significantly in style and tone, if not in substance. But the next time someone tells you that the election of Pope Francis has brought about a “sea change” or a “reset” in emphatically cordial relations between the Vatican and the Obama administration, think again.

Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC and coordinator of the Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society. Press release “A” is from July 2009; press release “B” is from this morning.

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