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Common commitment

· The Pontiff grants an audience to President Obama ·

On Thursday morning, 27 March, the president of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped 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, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated.

Accompanied by his entourage, President Obama was greeted in the courtyard of San Damaso by the Prefect of the Papal Household, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. Pope Francis, then, received him in the Sala del Tronetto of the Apostolic Palace. The two heads of state then proceeded to the Library for a private discussion, attended only by two interpretors. When, after 50 minutes, the doors were reopened, the members of the US delegation, led by Secretary of State John Kerry were presented to His Holiness.

Lastly, the traditional exchange of gifts took place. President Obama offered seeds planted in the White House Gardens. This was in celebration of the Pontifical Gardens of Castel Gandolfo being opened to the public earlier this month. The seeds were presented in a custom-made blue seed chest made of reclaimed wood from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the oldest Catholic Cathedrals in the United States. The Basilica's cornerstone had been laid by John Carroll, a Jesuit and the first Catholic bishop and archbishop in the US. The Pontiff, in turn, gave the president a copy of Evangelii Gaudium, a medal reproducing Bernini's original project for the colonnaide of St Peter's Square, and a cast in bronze by Maestro Veroi, entitled “Solidarity and peace”.

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