Pope Benedict took the opportunity to present a special copy of his social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) to several leaders attending the G-8 summit when they visited him. The Vatican released the encyclical on Jul 7, the day before the G-8 summit began.

VATICAN CITY – The Church’s position on bioethical issues got marked attention during Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Jul 10.

In addition to giving Obama a copy of his latest encyclical, which the pope had been presenting to visiting heads of state since its release on Jul 7, the pope also presented a copy of the Vatican document on biomedical ethics, “Dignitas Personae” (“The Dignity of a Person”).

When presenting the gifts after their 35-minute closed-door meeting, the pope gave Obama a signed, white leather-bound copy of the encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”), then indicated the light-green soft-cover instruction on bioethics issued last December by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“Oh, what we discussed earlier,” said Obama, referring to their closed-door discussions. “I will have some reading to do on the plane.”

(In discussing issues such as abortion, artificial fertilisation and stem-cell research, “Dignitas Personae” started with two fundamental Church teachings: that the human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception and that responsible human procreation occurs in an act of love between a man and a woman in marriage.)

“There was no intention to be polemical,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said. “I do not agree with the idea that the pope was trying to point out their differences.”

“It is important to talk about these things and to find a path to dialogue,” he said.

Obama was given “Dignitas Personae” to help him better understand the Church’s position on bioethics, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, papal secretary, told journalists in the pool covering the visit.

Pope Benedict and Obama discussed the Group of Eight summit – the meeting of the world’s wealthy industrialised countries, which concluded that morning in L’Aquila, Italy. The summit focused on the economic crisis, climate change and global tensions.

The pope and Obama discussed issues that represent “a great challenge for the future of every nation and for the true progress of peoples, such as the defence and promotion of life and the right to abide by one’s conscience”, according to a Vatican statement released after the audience.

The two men also discussed world issues addressed at the G-8 summit, as well as immigration and the issue of reuniting families, the Vatican statement said.

The meeting with the pope and a separate 20-minute meeting with Cardinal Bertone also touched on international politics, such as the peace process in the Middle East, “on which there was general agreement”.

“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” were discussed, the Vatican said.

“Finally, the importance of educating young people everywhere in the value of tolerance was highlighted,” it said.

At the end of the meeting, Pope Benedict told the president, “A blessing on all your work and also for you.”

The president responded: “Thank you very much. We look forward to building a strong relationship between our countries.”

Father Lombardi told reporters after the audience that “great serenity and great cordiality” characterised the meeting.

Father Lombardi said he spoke with the pope after the meeting and the pope “seemed extremely satisfied with how the meeting went”.

He said the pope found Obama to be “attentive and ready to listen”.

“The president explicitly expressed his commitment to reducing the numbers of abortions and to listen to the Church’s concerns on moral issues,” he said.

Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and a member of Obama’s entourage, later told reporters, “I think the president was eager to listen to the Holy Father, was obviously eager to learn more about his views” on issues such as abortion and stem cells.

McDonough said the president asked the pope to pray for his family. After their closed-door meeting, Obama introduced the pope to his wife, Michelle, their daughters, Malia and Sasha, and Michelle Obama’s mother, Marian Robinson. There was private exchange of gifts and a moment for photographs.

By Carol Glatz and Cindy Wooden, CNS

Several leaders attending the G-8 summit also visited the pope and he used the occasion to present them with a special copy of “Caritas in Veritate”.
Among the papal visitors were Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Catholic who attends an Anglican church; Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, a Catholic; South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (photo); and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who brought his family along.

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