Pope greets President Obama

First meeting between leaders

The meeting between Pope Francis and US President Barack Obama dealt with “questions of particular relevance for the Church in (the US), such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in a statement following the March 27 encounter.

The much anticipated first meeting between the two leaders was notable for its running time of some 52 minutes, much longer than is usual for a papal audience. Vatican observers speculated that the timescale would allow for an in-depth discussion on the American president’s controversial Health and Human Services mandate, which has been subjected to multiple challenges by faith groups since its enactment requiring birth control coverage by employers as part of insurance packages for employees.

However, it was revealed later by Mr Obama himself that much of the meeting was taken up with exchanges on “issues of the poor, the marginalised, those without opportunity and growing inequality” and the “challenges of conflict and how elusive peace is around the world”.

The mandate was discussed, it was confirmed, though “not in detail”.